Newsflash! In honor of December 5th and after a week’s rest with nothing to do but quibble, we find our remaining chefs restless and rearing to return to the competition. "Why not throw a Sinterklaas and Swarte Piet party for poor Dutch orphans?" said Mikey, he of the boundless cheerful nature. "I’ll bring the Heineken and make some cheese balls. My cheese tray kept me from being booted at Thanksgiving, so I must know cheese!"
"Enough with your cheese balls already," said Betty, getting crabbier by the minute. First Marcel ticked her off. And now it was Mikey. And where the hell were they going to find poor Dutch orphans in California? Under a knuckle head tree?
"Hey not fair," said Elia, puckering her ample but well-shaped brows. "I don’t know a theeeng about this Sinterklaas you speeek of."
"But you know chocolate," Marcel said in an unctious tone. "You melted it so beautifully before smearing it all over your pretty face. Why not make a chocolate letter for each of the judges?"
"Lezzer? What are zese lezzers you mention?" she asked.
"It’s a Dutch tradition, stupid," said Betty, already tiring of the numnuts surrounding her. "Those Dutch people like giving each other chocolate letters from birth to death. Really creeps me out. No other nation of people is so attached to their initials."
"Well…," began Elia, uncertain.
Betty had had it up to her pigtails with this stupid conversation . "Look, Princess, shut up and start making chocolate letters. As for me, I’ll bring the comfort food. Think I’ll make a nice big pot of Hutspot using my secret ingredient, nutmeg." Uh oh, she thought, how’d that slip out? Me and my big mouth.
"How come you get to bring the comfort food all the time?" whined Mia. "My family and I craved comfort food when we were poor and living off welfare. If anyone deserves to make the comfort food it’s me."
Betty’s cheeks began to grow as red as a Dutch beet. Heaving her bosoms, she sidled up to Mia ready for a fight.
"Uh, ok, I’ll make Olliebollen. That stuff’s fried, and I know frying like the back of my hand," Mia said hurriedly, not wanting to set Betty off. Besides, she thought smugly, Olliebollen were similar to beignets made with raisins, so she stood a good chance of winning.
Frank looked on with glee. Betty was out A-Holing him. He had won many an A-Hole competition in his time and had the t-shirts to prove it. "I’ll make Taai-Taai," he said, wondering if anyone in the room knew that taai-taai meant tough-tough. In fact this form of chewy gingerbread was almost as tough as him, and he had the cojones to prove it.
Marcel remained silent, wondering if the Dutch made a dish that would flex his culinary skills. "Of course! that's it! Maatjes Haring!" he blurted, and smiled. This dish, or new herring, would be nearly impossible to pull off in December. The herring had to be caught in late spring and served fatted and fresh. If anyone could do it, he could. "Of course I can do it," he boasted, spurred on by his ego. "My genius will allow nothing less."
At the far end of the kitchen, Cliff, Ilan, and Sam were rolling on the floor with laughter, figuring they had the competition sewn up. All they had to do was act normal and cook great food. How hard could that be given their combined talent and the fact that none of them had ever spent a plug nickel on therapy? The three conferred about the Dutch food that still needed to be made and this is what they decided:
Cliff: Marzipan in the shape of fruit
Sam: Speculaas (almond spice cookies) in the shape of windmills
Ilan: Peper Noten (ginger snaps)
We now fast forward to the judging after the party, which had not lasted a long time. There were very few Dutch orphans in California and in this respect Betty had been right. The guest judges were a complete surprise to our chefs, as Sinterklaas and Swarte Piet had unexpectedly arrived at their kitchen to join in the fun.
"I have a question," said Betty, confident that her Hutspot would comfort the two weary travelers. "How is it possible to arrive in several countries simultaneously on the same day at the same hour? And to distribute presents to good children, or lumps of coal and switches to bad children? And to keep track of who’s good or bad, and then find their houses in one night? I’m starting to doubt you two are for real."
Swarte Piet took a menacing step forward, a lump of coal in one hand and a switch in the other. Betty was being a bad girl, and she was not getting any of his goodies.
Uh oh, thought Betty, me and my big fat literal mouth. "Er, never mind. Forget I asked." She took a step behind Sam, hoping to blend into the woodwork, but unbeknownst to her, Sinterklaas never forgot. Bitch was going to be auf’d soon, he could tell.
Each chef then presented their dish in turn. Mikey made sure that Tom, Gail, Padma, Sinterklaas, and Swarte Piet had drunk plenty of Heineken before serving his cheese balls, which were firm and round and bursting with flavor.
Sinterklaas, swaying from alcoholic overload and belching from eating 6-month old Maatjes Haring, a dish he hoped never to taste again (didn’t that fool Marcel know the herring had to be served fresh?) declared Elia the winner. "We have just arrived from Spain," he intoned, "and miss hearing the accents of our home land. Besides which, we are addicted to our initials and we love chocolate. Plus Elia is pretty and has nice hair. She also dresses better than Padma."
Sinterklaas then turned to Padma. "Can’t Salman go clothes shopping with you? Does he know you're showing all that skin?"
He then asked Betty and Marcel to step forward. "You two demonstrated that a big mouth and a big ego can get in the way of talent. Betty, your hutspot was outstanding. That nutmeg enhanced this humble potato and carrot dish bringing forth its flavors. But you’re so obnoxious we can barely stand you. Marcel. Even my magical powers can’t make Maatjes Haring taste like it should in December. They're supposed to be fat and plumb and juicy and fresh, and frankly, these stink. Betty…Marcel…" Sinterklaas paused for a dramatic moment. "At this time of year I feel particularly benevolent. You may both stay."
Marcel and Betty began to jump up for joy like two drag queens meeting Faye Dunaway dressed as Mommie Dearest.
"Wait," Sinterklaas roared. "You must still be punished. I decree that Betty must keep her mouth shut for the rest of the competition. And Marcel, you'll join us on our journey to clean up after my white steed. Those grateful young children are leaving food in their wooden shoes for him. He works up a huge appetite, and, well, you can just imagine how much straw and carrots he can digest in one night. As the saying goes: Garbage in, garbage out!
Sinterklaas then turned to his faithful companion, who was making goo-goo eyes at Elias. "Piet! Give Marcel a shovel!" he r0ared.
Marcel, turning as pale as his 6-month old herring, slowly followed the pair out, clutching the shovel. The remaining chefs sighed with relief, savoring the complete silence, for Betty had taped her mouth shut.
As one they turned to Mikey. "Any Heineken and cheese balls left?"
Mikey, relieved to survive another week, happily nodded his head and bellowed, "C'mon, dudes, let's party!"
Link to Dutch food and recipes here.