The crush of cars choke the roadway. The children – shoulder-to-shoulder in their carseats in the backseat compete for dominance and attention. I press my head into my hand and stare out the passenger window. My husband grips the steering wheel and leans forward, willing the vehicles to move beyond the bottleneck traffic light. The green light allows us and one other car forward before teasing the others and flashing red. We take and left and are free! Only to gaze in horror at the packed parking lots, the cars jumping curbs and grinding to a halt in the weeds
I remember my first few months grocery shopping in the Netherlands. I’d peruse the stores, translating, hoping I’d find the right ingredients, and looking for familiar brands. The familiar brands were few and far between – but my local Jumbo grocery store stocked Doritos. Yum! I eyed each flavour (yes, spelled with a ‘u’). Nacho Cheese, Natural, and what’s this? Cool American? What the heck does that mean? Curious, I exchanged my Euros for a Cool American flavoured bag of tortilla chips and opened it upon entering my house. I reached in, grabbed and chip and took a bite. Ranch!
Cool and salty, like an island breeze, describes this Island Margarita Pie. It’s one of my Mom’s most favorite desserts to bring to potluck functions, especially in the summer. I requested the recipe from her, knowing the re-creation in Europe would be the ultimate challenge – the key ingredient is Cool Whip! Cool Whip – not frozen, not watery, but that perfect consistency every time, is not available in Europe (that I know of anyway). I put my Google skills to the test and ran through a couple of trials with errors. The final result (I’m happy to say) is
Gravel crunches under my feet. Naked trees loom above me, their skinny limbs reaching into the grey cold sky. I push faster – dodging patches of ice and slow Belgians. I must be the coldest and fastest person in this country right now. The red thermometer flashed outside the Chinese restaurant around the corner: 3 degrees. Celsius to Fahrenheit mental conversion is just something I have little will to master, but I do know this. Three degrees is cold. I chase the puff of frozen air ahead of me while jamming to my American rap and pop music buzzing in
“The Antwerp Zoo is stunning, it’s really a botanical garden with animals,” a fellow expat friend told me last fall. “Have you been?” she asked. Despite the numerous times we’d visited Antwerp while living in the Netherlands, we never had taken the kids. Passed it plenty – it’s just steps from the Antwerp Centraal Train Station, but with daily prices at a rate of 19 Euros/child and 24 Euros/adult – 86 Euros just seemed like a lot to shell out in one go. Upon moving to Antwerp we quickly discovered the beauty of the zoo membership. For 189 Euros, the
This one goes hand-in-hand with my Not Your Fergie’s Black Eyed Peas recipe. If you’re like me, I like to make my black eyed as a side-dish for a country meal (perhaps some savory pork chops or fried chicken) but then I have half a pot of beans left over! This is a great way to revamp those peas. I last served this cold as a side salad, but I’ve also served as a dip with a side of tortilla chips. Preppin’ 4 cups (about 650 grams) cooked black eyed peas (if you’re pressed for time, a couple cans of
Belgians and BBQ – it’s what they do in the summer. Kids hop in and out of blowup pools (and not the kiddie ones you have in your American-mind – these babies are about the size of a hot tub). Guests sip iced tea or glasses of rose’ while the host fires up the grill. Everyone is invited to bring dessert or a side. We were the only Americans invited to a Belgian BBQ a few weeks ago and I thought I’d treat them to one of my favorite, and most Texan, side-salads I could think of – Texas Caviar.
Any true Texan knows the best Mexican restaurants in town aren’t off the highway, but tucked into those strip malls in your neighborhood – next to the Kroger, the dry cleaners, and/or the nail salon. These restaurants – with their neon signs and ceiling tiles (painted black, if they’re fancy), rubbery booths and plastic tablecloths – aren’t out to win any decor awards. It’s the fantastic food, always served hot in ridiculously large quantities, the house special margarita, and the salsa that brings the neighbors coming back again and again. I made salsa before. Using a fork, I’d dangle fresh
The wind whips through our hair as I gaze at the fearless below. A lone girl lounges back on her hands, one leg outstretched – a black boot dangling over the edge of the wall – undeterred by the fifty-foot drop to the glistening water below. A respectable distance away from the quiet one, a boy and girl laugh. Their legs tucked and arms wrapped around their knees and they rock back and forth on the stone pier. They sip from red cans of Jupiler beer between gazes at the water. The sunset casts glaring reflections on the muddy water.
So, I have a confession to make. My favorite fajita marinade in the whole world is Claude’s. I’ve carried countless bottles of this glorious stuff over the ocean in suitcases. If anyone is looking for a hostess gift when they visit me in Belgium, this is all I want. Well, that and Bath and Body Works hand soaps. But, with my contraband supply depleting and the temperatures rising here in Belgium (thus, making me always think of Texas) we’ve been grilling like crazy. I have been tapping into my backup homemade fajita marinade recipe. I like to call this one,