Suriname, you know the country where our parents were born, where we lived for some years in our youth, and that we cannot ever stop bragging about, has been re-discovered by Surinamers who like our parents, moved to the Netherlands and raised children there, and by the Dutch who having lived side by side with Surinamers for decades, become curious and want to experience this culture for themselves. Many have built homes there and regular vacationers abound. The Dutch love the climate, the stunning rain forest, the cuisine of Indian, Indonesian, Chinese and Surinaams influences, the value of the Euro and traveling to a place where they can speak Dutch. We discussed with our mother the influx of Dutch tourists to Suriname once, and she remarked that she understood why they would find it attractive. Oen sab mek presirie, oen sab borie, oen sab libie.
We know how to entertain, we know how to cook, we know how to live. There could be no better way to describe the Surinamer, and it best describes our own recollection of our youth. Our parents had 4 children, their first when our mother was 21. They had moved from Suriname to the Netherlands where the four of us were born. Later we lived for some time in Barcelona, and as they had wanted to expose us to our roots, we also returned to Suriname, then back to the Netherlands. What is striking about it all now, is the effortlessness with which they were able to camp and decamp from country to country, continent to continent, at their whim. And once we were planted anywhere, there was always fun to be had. Presirie.
Our parents knew how to live. Kids bathed and in pajamas before the guests arrived, a quick polite hello to aunts and uncles, then off to bed. But never immediately off to sleep. Out would come the Johnny Walker, the Bols genever, cigarettes, Lieve Hugo playing in the background, and endless talk and laughter. Ma loved to laugh! If they were not entertaining at home, we always enjoyed the ritual of watching her prepare for an evening out, behind her vanity. In Suriname, they loved to go to Torarica and meet up with their friends for dinner and dancing. But Surinamers are a family oriented people. We do most of our partying with family and Sunday gatherings were what we lived for because then the cousins gathered and we could have fun too.
In Rotterdam, we would visit with Tante Joke and Oom Charles. Their dutch row house was the hub for the family and as they ran their own bar on the ground floor, the hub for many Surinamers living in The Netherlands. We loved Sunday with Familie Doest. Surinamers do not entertain without food, and we do not nibble. We cook as if catering a wedding, full meals, several courses, dessert. Tante Joke made the best Chinese style chicken soup but our favorite was by far the blood sausage. Yes, that’s what we said, bloedworst blood sausage, cow’s blood made into sausage, the most flavorful, fois gras textured delicacy, spicy, and delicious. Only recently did we discover that Tante Joke did not make those. They came from Oom Max.
No attachment parenting, mind numbing routine or constant exhaustion. Children just added to the festivities and sense of community. What we regret about coming to America is the loss, hard and immediate, of that community. The loss of stories, connection, history. The end of laughter. Tante Joke and Oom Charles have passed now. We worry they may have taken our stories with them. It will fall on us to hold on to what is left of them, to try to recreate them. Ours will be different from theirs. Still filled with family, but a smaller family, more American friends than Surinamers. California, not Rotterdam. There will be guitar, scavenger hunts, dinners, no cold, flavorless nibbles. There will be laughter; like ma we laugh loud and often. Even among our American friends, we interject Surinaams – Mr. K has already learned some of ma’s favorite sayings. Our playlist though heavy on Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, The Police will always require Lieve Hugo, Kassav, Latinos. Our menu may have pom, pastei, pindasoep. But we look forward to surprising with dessert, already practicing Gail Monaghan’s Fané.
Oen sab mek presirie, oen sab borie, oen sab libie. We can never recreate bloedworst at Family Doest’s in Rotterdam. But we will speak Surinaams, dance to Lieve Hugo, and laugh. Always louder than anyone else…
TOTAL TIME About 5 hours, including 4 hours’ freezing and prior day’s prep
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup plus 5 tablespoons superfine sugar
3 pints vanilla ice cream, softened
5 cups heavy cream, chilled
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
12 ounces hard white nougat, crushed into small pieces
3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) shaved bittersweet chocolate
The day before, prepare the meringue: preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar on low speed. When soft peaks form, increase the speed and sprinkle in 3/4 cup of the sugar until the meringue holds stiff peaks.
Spread meringue into a rough 1-inch layer on baking sheet. Bake until slightly sticky when pierced with a knife, about 2 hours. Turn off oven and leave meringue inside for a few hours to dry completely. Break into 1- to 2-inch chunks. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.
Four hours before serving, assemble the fané: spray the inside of a 4-quart metal bowl with cooking spray and lay a large piece of plastic wrap against the inside of the bowl. Spread the ice cream evenly over the entire inside of bowl and plastic wrap. Cover and freeze.
Two hours before serving, whip the cream. When it begins to thicken, add remaining sugar and the vanilla, then beat to soft peaks. Set aside 2 cups of the whipped cream and refrigerate. Fold nougat into remaining whipped cream, then add to the ice-cream-lined bowl. Cover and freeze.
Just before serving, rewhip the reserved whipped cream to firm peaks. Turn the bowl out onto a platter, separating the plastic wrap from the bowl. Remove the plastic wrap. Cover the ice cream with whipped cream, followed by chunks of meringue. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Let soften a bit at the table before cutting into wedges.
YIELD Serves 10 to 12