My First Friendsgiving

In The Art of Travel Fall 2016, Prague, Thanksgiving by Zianna1 Comment

This was my first “Friendsgiving.” Though it’s my third year in college, I flew home for Thanksgiving as a freshman, and spent the holiday with relatives in Brooklyn last year. Since I’m 4,000 miles away from the states, neither was really possible this year. So I went to Amsterdam for the weekend with my roommate Carmen and her brother, who met us there from his study abroad site in London. Since we all arrived on Thursday evening because we had classes earlier that day, we saved our feast for Friday.

On Thursday night, Carmen and I ventured out to the nearest supermarket. We planned on baking a chicken instead of a turkey, as we guessed it might be difficult to find a whole turkey in a country that doesn’t really eat it. I was surprised to find that most of the supermarket clerks were teenage boys – and they all spoke pretty good English. We gathered all the ingredients we would need (chicken, potatoes, pasta, cheese, spinach, flour, apples, cinnamon, sweet potatoes, wine, etc.) all of which only added up to 50 euros. The supermarket didn’t accept Visa, though, which was strange.

That night we went to one of Amsterdam’s famous Coffeeshops, which was actually much sketchier than I had anticipated (but all the others we visited were normal). After, I prepared the dough for the apple pie crust, and we watched (read: tried to watch) a DVD. Our AirBnb was beautiful and modern, but the entertainment system was lacking – the speakers added a disturbing static buzz to whatever was playing.

On Friday morning Carmen and I woke up and immediately started cooking. With Holiday music (it was really the day after Thanksgiving which meant it was officially Christmastime) merrily playing from Carmen’s phone, she dressed the chicken and boiled the pasta for the mac n’ cheese. I started the flan, which was my most daunting task of the day. I grew up enjoying the recipe of my mom and nana, but had never attempted to make it myself. Without the properly shaped bowl and double boiler my mom uses, I had to make a makeshift double-boiler using two deep frying pans. I mixed together the condensed milk and eggs, but was surprised to find that the can of what I had been told was evaporated milk, was actually sterilized milk, a thick, tan-colored gloop. After frantically looking up alternatives to evaporated milk, I rushed to the market and bought regular milk, which I had to literally evaporate on the stove. The double boiler took far too long to boil, and the sugar coating took even longer to melt. Once there was finally a nice brown coating on the pan, I poured in mixture and hoped for the best. According to my mom, it should take about 45 minutes to cook.

I took a shower and then cooked the apples for the pie in butter, sugar, and cinnamon. While letting them cool in the fridge I started the sweet potatoes, my absolute favorite. By now, Carmen’s brother had woken up and was offering moral support from the couch.

Two hours later, the top of the flan was still liquid. I tried spooning some of it out, hoping it would cook faster. Nothing helped. I waited for the chicken to come out of the oven, and stuck the pan in there for about 15 minutes that did the trick. The texture seemed perfect. Next was time to flip it into a dish. But my mother forgot to tell me one crucial detail: flip it once it’s cool.

Ignorantly rushing to plate the dessert, I flipped it hot, fresh out the oven. I lifted the pan off the plate to reveal a pile of custard, not the smooth golden flan I had pictured. I did my best to put the pieces back together and stuck it in the fridge.

By now everything was ready and on the table. Carmen, her brother and I sat down around a beautiful spread, champagne bubbling in our glasses. Everything was delicious. We stuffed ourselves silly and giggled all night as we reminisced and watched Black Eyes Peas music videos. I’d say Friendsgiving was a success.



  1. Hi Zianna,
    I was drawn to your post, as I also decided to have my first ever independent “friendsgiving”. My past two holidays I’ve either spent with my own family, or the family of my friends. However, never had to truly do all the prep and cooking for myself. It was a cool experience kind of figuring out how to do the whole thing on our own, and making kind of a ramshackle Thanksgiving dinner out of our country’s available grocery options.
    We also decided to dress a chicken, instead of a turkey actually, and everyone came together and contributed something that they specialized at. It may not have been the stereotypical thanksgiving meal, but it was great nonetheless.
    Glad you had such a good holiday.

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