The older I get, the harder it is to make friends. When I was younger being thrown into simple social situations such as school, sorority, or team sports was a way of life and made it easy to make friends. But moving to a new city in the middle of my thirties knowing only a small handful of people is more challenging. Most now have kids, or have enough friends, or are busy in relationships or careers so I really need to make a concerted effort. And given that Stefan has no friends, he’s not much of a social help! Since coming back in October, I’ve really committed to being in Amsterdam and making a life for myself here and that includes making some real friends.
Working is always a first great place to meeting people. It’s where I met Hilary a few years ago. Close proximity, spending long hours together, you ultimately get to know your neighbor. Working at Streative, a small branding/consumer insights company, I met a few really great people (a Canadian, a German and a Brit) that I like to hang out with outside of work. Classes seem the next logical choice, and I took a Dutch class (Ik spreek een beetje Nederlands, I speak a little Dutch) and the others in the class were like me, just moved here, don’t know many people, just trying to get on in a foreign country. We all started grabbing drinks outside of class as well. There’s Anna from Helsinki, Liam from Ireland, and Karen from NYC – all also here because of a boyfriend / girlfriend situation. Through a work interview I met my friend PJ and we became fast friends living around the corner from each other and both having a film background. And finally through the supper club last week I met two amazing girls, Rima (also from LA) and Emanuala from Bulgaria.
Although there have been spurts of loneliness and missing my amazing friends from back home, I’m feeling incredibly lucky that I’ve met so many fantastic and international people so quickly that I actually connect with. And now I’m not the one constantly calling or texting others to make plans. People are contacting me, engaging me, wanting to hang out with me. And that is so great.
My friend Karen from NYC (who reminds me very much of my friend Sharon from SF) invited Stefan and I over for dinner at their house. Something else that has taken a bit of getting used to is we have a tiny 60 square meter flat (great for one person when it was just Stefan, not so great for two) . Whereas in SF, everyone used to come to my house for dinner, now all dinner parties take place at other people’s houses, so dinner parties really rely on other people asking us to come over (and me taking over their kitchen!) It’s just opposite and foreign to me and can’t wait for the day that we move into a great place where I can once again be the “hostess with the most-ess.”
Anyway, coming off the high from the Latitudinal supper club, I created a healthy meal of Tilapia with Green Tahini Sauce, White Bean and Kale Soup, Rainbow Kale Salad, and Miso Ginger Brown Rice. Karen and I met at the Albert Cuyp market to pick up all the produce and fish. The Albert Cuyp market is the largest daily market in Europe. One long street selling everything from clothes to bedding to bikes to fruits, vegetables, fish, and local street food such as herring and poffertjes (little pancakes). I love this market. But Karen, well Karen knows everyone at this market. It was amazing. We went to the fish guy and he knew her by name, we had a chat about what’s fresh, what’s good today. Onward to the chicken guy where he chatted with us while butchering a chicken into quarters. Needless to say, here I am with the food blog, but she’s the one who knew everyone. I was very impressed. And I realized it’s something I really want to do more of and need to overcome the fear of talking to the vendors and new people in my community. And I think it’s something that comes with time, becoming comfortable with where you are in life at this very moment, accepting the moment and embracing it. It’s not about giving up my old life and all the people in it, it’s about opening up to my new life and letting new people into it.
White Bean and Kale Soup:
This soup from the Whole Foods website is so incredibly easy to make super healthy with lots of veggies and beans, makes enough for tons of leftovers or big parties.
Ingredients: (says serves 4 but really more like 8 )
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced yellow onion
4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 (32-ounce) box low-sodium vegetable broth
4 cups packed chopped kale
1 (14.5-ounce) can Italian-style diced tomatoes
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5-ounce) can sliced carrots, drained, or two large carrots, peeled and sliced
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes longer. Add broth, kale and tomatoes (and fresh carrots, if using) and cover. Cook 5 minutes or until kale is tender. Add beans and canned carrots and heat thoroughly. Serve hot.
Miso Ginger Wild Rice: From Whole Foods website
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 1/4 cups uncooked wild rice
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon barley miso
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 medium carrot, shredded (about 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions, 1 tablespoon reserved for garnish
Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a medium pot. Add rice and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked through, about 50 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, garlic, sesame seeds, ginger, miso and crushed red pepper until blended. When rice is cooked, drain and add to bowl with vinegar mixture. Stir in cabbage, carrot and green onion until combined and garnish with remaining green onion.
Grilled Tilapia with Green Tahini and Pomegranate Seeds: adapted from Ottolenghi Cookbook
Ingredients: (serves 4)
4 Tilapia fillets or any firm white fish 4 tablespoons olive oil
2 roughly cut parsley
grated zest of one lemon and 4 lemon wedges for garnish
pomegranate seeds from 1/2 of pomegranate green tahini sauce (recipe below)
Season fish with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Pan fry, bake or grill the fish until it is firm and “bounce” back when you poke it. Place fish on serving plates and spoon tahini sauce generously on top. Garnish with chopped parsley, lemon zest, and pomegranate seeds. Place lemon wedge next to each fish and serve
Green Tahini Sauce: can be made one day in advance 75ml tahini paste 75ml water
40ml lemon juice
1 clove garlic crushed
15g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
In a bowl, thoroughly whisk the tahini, water, lemon juice, garlic, and salt together. Mixture should be creamy and smooth. If it’s too thick add more water. Stir in the chopped parsley, taste and add more salt if needed.