Sinterklaas with the Brörmanns!

Sinterklaas in the Netherlands is celebrated the 5th of December (and the 6th in Belgium) but because my sister-in-law Nikki was in Pakistan, we celebrated a bit later.  There are a few differences between the Dutch Sinterklaas and the American Santa Clause. Although the Sint brings gifts to the “braaf” or good children, he is much more strict than my dear Santa. If you are bad, not only do you receive a “roe”, or a cane to be whipped with, but also you will be taken from your parents and home in Sinterklaas’ bag and brought back to Spain, where the Sint lives!

Also, Sinterklaas does not have elves to help him with the days up to Christmas, instead he has Zwarte Pieten, black companions that arrive with him on his steamboat from Spain to help distribute treats. Although originally black to represent the Moorish people who once occupied the Netherlands, they are now black because they are covered in soot from the chimneys!  But as an American here, I don’t think I will ever get used to seeing so many people in black face with huge red lips, afros, and golden hoop earrings!

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet

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The Antwerp Christmas Market

The Antwerp Christmas Market has begun! The Christmas market is spread out around Antwerp, and you’ll find cute wooden stalls with a variety of vendors. A trip to the Kerstmarkt isn’t complete without first sampling spekpatatjes met looksaus (bacon potatoes with garlic sauce) and Glühwein (“glow wine”, mulled wine). Koen and I ventured into the huge crowd the opening night, Saturday the 8th of December. Unfortunately I didn’t check my battery level and could only take 2 photos! But I went back Monday to take more photos!

Me enjoying spekpatatjes met looksaus and Glühwein the first night of the Kerstmarkt!

Me enjoying spekpatatjes met looksaus and Glühwein the first night of the Kerstmarkt!

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Parsnips, a forgotten vegetable

In promotion right now at my grocery store in Antwerp are the “forgotten vegetables” – parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas. So this weekend I bought parsnips (2 for 0.99€!). I’ve never cooked them myself, so I had to look up possible recipes. From what I’ve found, parsnips are normally used in oven dishes with other vegetables or fried like chips. I opted for the former to be served with a spicy marinated pork loin.

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Parsnips, Brussel sprouts, potatoes, a carrot, and fresh thyme

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Finished dinner, fresh out of the oven!

The parsnips were delicious, and now I’m going to try making the chips this week!