Pie transport, Dutch people, etc
Hi, my love. It’s a gray Sunday here in Amsterdam. I have a big pot of stock simmering for future matzoh ball soup like the real bubbe that I am.
(Happy to share any soup/matzoh ball tips if you want em, let me know in the comments!)
The eventful news this week is that we’ve finally, very tentatively and fully vaccinated + negative-COVID-test-day-of, begun to see some human beings. Because of the nature of our international touring, we have to be incredibly careful still.
But I had my first in house writing session with absolutely badass Belgian singer Lady Linn. I took no photos of it because I was having too much fun.
Lien’s goal, upon arrival, was to “write a banger.” This was a new request for me, (though, if I may, I have written my fair share of bangers). I realized when she asked, however, that I have never set out to just… write one. I suppose my bangers have always been so by accident.
But I am nothing if not up for a challenge. So we set to work writing a banger. First I spent about an hour putting together what ended up being decidedly not a banger. It was an excellent piano ballad. Perhaps I’ll use it later. Then Lien reminded me: We were on a banger quest.
So I started with an arpeggiated synthesizer. I built out the arpeggio and the resulting melody was so strong that we wrote the song around it. It came together quickly. I ordered falafel. I cut the prechorus in half, Lien provided the vocals, and boom. Banger demo. Hopefully you’ll get to hear it someday.
That was Monday. Banger accomplished. First writing session in our house accomplished. With tour about to roaringly return plus our artist in residence schedule at the conservatory, the next four days were literally our last free ones until January 1, 2022. Accordingly, I put this in the calendar for the rest of the week:
I am happy to report I did most of the all caps demands.
1) We didn’t fight. That was a real success (Any couple who has spent two years with just each other, youuuuuuuu. get. me). Check.
2) We ate food. Check. We cooked food. Check.
3) I lit many a wüdbürner fire. Check.
And oh boy, did I bake pie.
It started with a blueberry pie. My parents love fruit pies and I’m heading back to the states for a bit in December, so I wanted to make sure I could really deliver upon return. I am happy to report that in my year of pie baking I have finally, finally, figured out the many secrets of pie crust.
(Happy to share any crust tips if you want em, let me know in the comments!)
The blueberry pie was a bit of a failure in the end though, because I have no patience. Fruit pies rely on both extensive baking and cooling time to allow the starch to gel into the magnificent gelatinous filling we all know and love.
This doesn’t work so well if you are me, a hyperactive New York Jewess with a raging case of ADHD who can neither sit still nor wait for pie to cool. So the blueberry pie, though delicious, was more of a blueberry soup in a pie crust bowl. Looked real pretty before we let it out of its pie crust bowl, though.
Soupy or not, I have the blueberry pie to thank for the rest of my week.
Which was excellent. Because I finally unlocked a secret I have been trying to find forever (aka the last 9 months, if you are not me and don’t speak in sweeping superlatives/hyperbole).
Like a secret passageway in a video game. In real life.
A pie shaped secret passage, my friends.
(Whaaaaaaat, you ask!?)
(I’ll back up.)
For all of my Dutch subscribers here on th’ol t-talk, you know I love you. Each and every one of you perfect, easy going, brilliantly intelligent self possessed humans. But this extremely hyperactive New York Jewess has had a hard go of it when it comes to adjusting here socially.
The Dutch are fashionable people. Artful, quirky, blisteringly unique humans. When I step outside and one of these magnificently fashionable people is in a glorious royal blue silken caftan/ohmygodperfectionthing straight out of Milan fashion week (this! happened! yesterday!) my natural instinct, from a lifetime in Manhattan, is to do the following:
Yell, at more or less the top of my lungs, “OUTFIT!”
In New York I do this one to ten times a day because there are so many ohmygodperfectionthing outfits.
When I yell this, you, from a lifetime in Manhattan, do one of the following in response:
1) Turn around and say, “I know, right?! My friend Jimmy made it for me. Jimmy is a banker by trade and a vogue dancer by night. He doesn’t sell the things he makes, but you can go visit him. He lives in a basement on Bleecker Street and only takes two guests per year. Good luck, I’m late for the train, bye!”
2) Turn, smile and shout back, “THANK YOU BITCH, YOU TOO”
3) Turn and say, “Are you talking to me? Why the fuck are you talking to me?”
All of these, as far as I’m concerned, are acceptable outcomes. If you do the first two, I will gain a good portion of my life. If you do the third, I will learn a valuable lesson. I will not fuck with you next time, no matter how excellent your outfit is. I will also either yell back at you or silently salute you for your excellent and vocal asserting of your boundaries.
Here’s what happened, on the flip side, the first few v sad times I instinctively yelled in Amsterdam.
1) Turns, bewildered, looks at me, looks around for the person I might have been shouting to, continues walking
2) Turns, bewildered, looks at me, looks around for the person I might have been shouting to, realizes it was a compliment meant for them, halfheartedly smiles and walks away as quickly as possible
3) Turns, annoyed, looks at me, makes a pained half face that is very difficult for me to read but seems to be either, “Jesus Christ, go back to your over the top super sized hot dog on street go-broke-paying-for-subpar-healthcare city, goodbye” or, “I am confused but you are reading this as aggression, either way it is not my job to explain it to you, goodbye”
This is all fine and good. You know I love you, Amsterdam. I am not trying to ask you to be anything other than what you are. I am in your city. And I fracking love both you and your city.
Still, though. Adjusting to this has been hard.
So you can imagine my delight when I figured out one way to get Dutch people to speak to me as though I were wearing a fabulous outfit in Manhattan.
(A secret. Video. Game. Passageway!)
If you, too, are a loud extremely hyperactive New York Jewess expat struggling with culture-shock, may I please recommend to you:
Bake a pie. Then bring it somewhere.
This accidental discovery was born as a normal taali thing. We found out our friends Ben and Teresa are new expats here, so of course that meant a pie needed to happen. You already know about the blueberry saga. I had learned my lesson, was ready to commit to patience, and decided on sour cherry.
(Happy to share any sour cherry tips if you want em, let me know in the comments!)
I waited the appropriate amount of time. I let that fruit filling bubble and bubble. I cooled it forever (aka 1.5 hours, if you are not me and don’t speak in sweeping superlatives/hyperbole).
With the pie finished, the first step was getting it out of the house. This involves the hellscape that is a narrow Dutch staircase.
I know you think you know what I mean when I describe this staircase. I can assure you. You very much do not. If you are not Dutch or an expat living in Holland, allow me to paint a picture of you:
Dutch stairways are death traps. Death. TRAPS.
Apparently this is because in the seventeenth century the tax you paid was determined by the width of your house. My former Dutch brethren decided to be clever and build narrow and tall.
(Less tax! More death!)
Thanks to these tax evading 17th century former-Dutch, almost every stairway in Amsterdam is straight out of Alice and Wonderland or a child’s dream/nightmare. The kind of staircase that a tottering, over excited anime character runs down while fleeing an evil witch. Our staircase happens to be right next to our bedroom, and any time either of us gets up to pee in the middle of the night, it’s honestly a toss up whether we die or not. Pray for us.
The pie had to make it down said stairs without being dropped by my excited anime character self first.
Next it was time to take it across town. Our new friends live in Jordaan, the magnificent and picturesque canal district. That’s a quick bike ride for us, except if we have a home-baked pie to transport. So we opted for the equally glorious Amsterdam-ian tram.
This is where the real fun started.
It started slowly. It’s not like anyone came up yelling, “OH HELL YES! PIE!” But I got 3-5 actual look me in the eye smiles, which, after 9 months here, felt like being kissed on the mouth in comparison.
(I smiled back.) (I resisted the urge to tell them that their outfit was good.)
When we finally landed, buoyed by the abundance of outward Dutch good will, I was on cloud 9. Plus, the weather was obviously really into the pie too, because as we know from past t-talks I control the weather (you’re welcome). Pie was being walked down these picturesque streets. All the odds were in our favor. José snapped this photo to memorialize.
We walked on the canal next to me in the photo, and this is where it got epic.
Honest to god, Dutch people, real live Dutch people like the ones I told you about, were leaning out and yelling from their windows.
“I want some!”
I felt like Belle from Beauty and Beast. I shouted back to all of them, option 2 in NYC style. I told them I had MADE the pie, which led to even more outward love affairs. My heart sang.
And the joy wasn’t over yet. Because, of course, we still had friends to see.
(At one point on the way to the cafe we were going to I let Ben hold the pie, just to see if it was me or the pie that was causing the Dutch to act so … un-Dutch. Success! It was, indeed, the pie. Ben was also delighted by the outpouring of Dutch love.)
So yes. I can now very scientifically tell you that pie is the answer.
At the cafe I gave the barista, Mitchell, a slice, because what the hell else do you do with a full pie you just carried across town. I was nervous that the pie would not be delicious. I was very wrong to be nervous. The pie was perfect.
And then I got to just enjoy the pie, after its glorious Disney esque journey, with two new friends. At some point Teresa made slagroom (which is how you say whipped cream in Dutch … I love it, extra. room. for. SLAGS!). She makes it without sugar, because she is perfect and has her head on straight. A glorious pie accompaniment made by a dream boat of a human.
Our new friends are wonderful. And brilliant. And hilarious. We ended up staying with them for 7 full hours, just talking and eating sour cherry pie.
(Which is no small feat, honestly.)
Because I’ve struggled quite a bit emerging after the pandemic. My social skills are rusty as all get out and I have a lot of trauma and distrust to contend with. But after two years of distance, two years of fear, and pain, and all of it, I felt my whole soul just… rest for a second on that stoop with Ben and Teresa. And I remembered, intrinsically, what it feels like to really connect.
That is precious, and I am allowing myself to cherish it with you here today. Thank you for being the connection I’ve needed this past year, even though many of us haven’t met in person just yet. I can’t wait to do so soon, and am sending you love in the meanwhile.
See you next week.