An American Couple in Delft
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So This Was Christmas

It looked like disaster was looming, as if it were going to be a rotten Christmas. Woe was us.

Here we are, strangers in this country, and Christmas was fast approaching. Lynn wanted to go out to dinner on Christmas Eve but she wanted to make Christmas night dinner of turkey at home. There are a couple small groceries in old central Delft but none had anything resembling a turkey. We found out that if we went to the big Albert Heijn (pronounced Hine), we could find a turkey there in addition to other things she also wanted to get including poultry seasoning and sausage for the stuffing. Albert Heijn is one of the two chain groceries that are everywhere in The Netherlands, not unlike a 7/11.

The big Albert Heijn is in "new" Delft, about a mile away. We walked down there with our shopping cart, filled with Christmas optimism. The place was packed. Shopping in a different language is hard enough when there is time is to examine the items, but when one stops for five seconds to consider something, a traffic jam ensues and one can hear figurative horn blowing in one’s head as nobody can get around you and everyone is in a hurry. We found something that looked like a turkey. It was the right shape and color but it seemed too small, two and a half kilograms, about five and a half pounds for those using the English system of weights and measures. But a turkey it was and we put it in the basket. I noticed the price and felt like I had swallowed the turkey whole: €14.50. At dollars per pound with the current exchange rate, this puppy was about $3.56/lb. Here is what you could get a turkey for in the Philadelphia area:

Superfresh in Philadelphia sells Jennie-O Grade "A" Turkey’s for 49 cents per pound.

the Shop Rite in Philadelphia has Butterball Fresh Turkey’s selling for 50 cents per pound.

Giant in Cherry Hill, NJ offers Super G/ Carolina Turkey’s for 69 cents per pound

at Genuardi’s in Norristown, Manor House Turkeys sell for 39 cents per pound

and the Acme in Bala Cynwyd is selling Butterball Turkeys for $1.19 per pound

This was more like lobster tail or shrimp or something. It HAD to be good.

The poultry seasoning was another matter. How does one say "poultry seasoning" in Dutch? We didn’t know and when Lynn asked a kid in the store, he either didn’t know what she meant or didn’t know where the item was. In either case, we were getting claustrophobic from the crowds and frustrated at not being able to find anything. We walked the mile back home being a bit gloomy. Things were not going well. Plan B was to get the non-turkey items early the next day at a place closer to home at a time of day with less traffic.

This was a good idea. No sausage was available but Lynn found some cranberries, and instead of poultry seasoning, she got some rosemary and thyme. (Wait, poultry seasoning, rosemary and thyme. I may be on to something here.) We found out later that poultry seasoning is called wild zeisoen and that sausage is available at a butcher shop. It’s still a mystery to me why some meat is available at the grocer and some at the butcher. There are also two kinds of butchers, beef and poultry. Of course, we learned this too late but at least we learned it. But once again I digress.

On the afternoon of Christmas it was time to fire up the oven. It’s a convection oven which means that there’s a fan inside that circulates the hot air. When using one of these, things cook at a lower temperature and for shorter times. We guessed an hour and a half and 175 degrees for a five and a half pound turkey. That temperature wouldn’t crack a sweat in a dry sauna but this is Celsius so that’s about 350 Fahrenheit.

We waited. The time expired. Lynn hit a home run. The turkey was juicy and delicious, the stuffing was superb with the new and different ingredients, and the potatoes, which presented no obstacles, were terrific.

This was the first year since we were married that we spent this holiday alone with just each other. It’s fair to say that we did feel a large void where Aaron and Bruce should have been. But, all in all, our Christmas worked out really well and we had a fine time. Lynn and I both hope that all of you also had a fine time and spent the holiday with those you love.


2008 Rick Wexler   last updated February 21, 2008