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Monthly Archives: January 2015

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December bookclub: The Unlikely Pilgrammage of Harold Fry

IMG_2410What a nice evening we had at book club this month! There was a big, beautifully decorated Christmas tree, homemade cookies and tea on the table and lots of conversation with members we hadn’t seen in a while as well as those new to our group. Oh yes … and there was a book discussion!! As we sipped our tea, we began the diverse discussion of The Unlikely Pilgrammage of Harold Fry, written by Rachel Joyce. The general consensus was that the book was written in the style of “youth literature”, making the book seem a little more simplistic than its intended true meaning. Some felt the author didn’t share enough information about why Harold felt compelled to take the journey in the first place and waiting until the end for the “big reveal” still didn’t tie it all together. Others, however saw beyond the words on the page and could understand why Harold and Maureen had drifted apart and that the journey wasn’t so much about Queenie but more about finding themselves again. While we all had varying opinions and enjoyed discussing the book, none of us felt compelled  to read other works by Joyce.

Our next read is a spy thriller … Restless, by William Boyd. Happy Reading!

The TIC Annual Dinner

by Jean-Francois Hennart

This year the dinner was at Square, a mere slip and slide across an icy Heuvel. I admit that I wasn’t expecting a lot from a Lounge-Club-Restaurant, too much like never-ever-good dinner theater, but on the night was disabused of my spread-too-thin preconception. Our coats were deftly taken and the owner was pouring us a welcome drink before our cheeks had lost their winter-wind glow. The décor at Square is loft-simple, the lighting is kind, but not dim. Whole-group menus are hard on a chef, but the fresh starter and simple dessert seemed to go down well, as did the well-chosen and generously-served wines. Sondra and I hedged our bets when it came to selecting a meat-or-fish main, but need not have. My venison was just-right pink, and her cod with sauerkraut (a combination we intend to crib) well-nigh James Beard worthy. No doubt, we will again “be there”.

Never been to the post-holiday dinner? Are you thinking it might be like a Sierra Seniors do, with awards handed out, speeches made? Wrong. I’m tempted to compare the TIC answer to the winter blues to My Dinner with Andre, because what makes for a good time around the table is, if I can borrow from Roger Ebert, “conversation, in which the real subject is the tone, the mood, the energy.” The tone is set by mutually-held curiosity about what lies beyond our own national borders and by shared determination to make the most of living in the Netherlands; the mood is sometimes jubilant, sometimes mellow; and the energy comes from within.

So, if you weren’t there, you missed something. Now you could wait until January rolls around again, or long before then you could take part in a different event. You might just find yourself, as we did last night, caught up in a wide-ranging conversation touching on learning to waterski, a Lang Lang concert in Amsterdam, raising bilingual kids, a selfie with Henry Kissinger, Fontys fledgling Academy of Circus and Performing Arts, trailing penguins in Patagonia …

Cookie workshop

by Elaine Ferguson

On a chilly December evening I arrived at the Boomstraat in Tilburg not quite knowing what to expect. Although, I had baked biscuits (cookies) before, our tradition in New Zealand and Australia leans more towards slices and cakes.

I walked into a hive of activity with the chocolate already melted au bain marie on the cooker.  The Ingredients were all set out and the butter softened ready to be beaten into the flour, butter and sugar to make the following choice of cookies:

Jam Thumbprints, Grandma Edith’s Pecan Delights, Peanutbutter cookies and Ting-a-lings.

Anne supervised us while we got to work weighing out the ingredients and mixing flour, sugar, and butter together.

Myself, Thijs and Yiyi worked on making the Jam Thumbprint cookies.  Thijs ground the walnuts using a small hand mill while Yiyi and I worked together weighing and mixing the ingredients.  Anne showed me her Grandma’s method of beating the butter and sugar together. Once the mixture was combined we rolled the dough into small balls dipped them into egg white and then rolled them in the walnuts before making an indentation in the middle for the jam.

Meanwhile Yolonda, Patricia and Emerald got on with making the peanutbutter cookies and Grandma Edith’s Pecan Dreams.  Kris and Thijs made the Ting-a-lings by combining the Cornflakes together with melted chocolate to create small, hedgehog like mounds of delicious cookies.

Trays were being ferried back and forth to the oven under the careful supervision of Anne so that nothing got burnt.  Timing is everything when baking cookies because if they are underdone they will be the wrong consistency and overdone means picking off the charred edges.

Once the biscuits had been transferred to the cooling racks and allowed to cool sufficiently to either sprinkle with a dusting of icing sugar or filled with jam, and of course tasted.  Although biscuits are usually better eaten the next day this is not always possible.

By this time the wine had appeared and the activity became slightly less intense as we packed our goodies into plastic containers to be taken home and shown off to the family.

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