Every so often we meet someone who inspires us to take action to pursue our dreams. Even if it is as simple as signing up for a class, or booking a plane ticket. Jeniece Primus is one such person, and when I first met her and saw her Brown Cafes series I knew that I just had to collaborate with this amazing photographer. (Watch the video below to find out why they are called “Brown Cafes.”)
Sitting across from her at a Starbucks, I would never have guessed that Jeniece was a native New Yorker. I consider myself the typical Type-A New Yorker who is completely at a loss when I am not doing something, heading somewhere, or planning my next goal (my mind map spans six letter-sized sheets of paper). Jeniece on the other hand, reminds me of an intelligent, polished, chic and confident European woman. She exudes a grounded sense of calmness that I could only hope to achieve despite countless efforts with yoga and meditation.
Maybe she was born with these personality traits, or maybe moving from Brooklyn to Amsterdam six years ago had something to do with it. Jeniece and her husband moved back to New York last year to spend more time with their family, but she speaks fondly of her life in Amsterdam…of her love affair with the beautiful city with its canals, bridges and cycling culture.
And we are not just talking about rolling-around-the-park-on-a-sunny-Saturday-afternoon cycling. The Dutch cycle as a primary means of transportation. During one of my past projects in Amsterdam I saw women cycling while carrying their groceries and babies. There were also more bicycles parked at the office lot than cars. Add to that the standard milk and sandwich lunches that everyone ate at the office cafeteria along with the popularity of after-work ice skating, soccer and running associations, and it is no wonder the Dutch are in great shape.
Jeniece and her husband embraced this culture whole-heartedly, even cycling from Amsterdam through Belgium then to Le Havre in France. From Le Havre they took a ferry to Portsmouth in the U.K., and continued cycling to Harwich before returning to Hoek-van-Holland in the Netherlands. During this two week trip they set up tents each night as they cycled the equivalent distance of New York to Chicago.
If that trip gave you a glimpse of Jeniece’s personality, then you would not be surprised to find out that Jeniece left Investment Banking to pursue something that she loves…capturing emotions through photographs. Her career change was not an epiphany, unlike my own kick-in-the-pants experience. Instead, her decision gradually formed as she and her friends would talk about how they were not quite happy in their jobs. After hearing that for the umpteenth time she decided to stop talking and to do something about it.
Jeniece was drawn to the Brown Cafes of Amsterdam because she wanted to capture an essential part of Dutch culture…”gezelligheid.” This refers to an atmosphere of cozy companionability. When friends meet for a drink on a terrace to enjoy the first warm day of the summer, they may greet each other with “Gezelligheid.” In the typical Dutch understated way, they are not saying this is fantastic…but that it is really nice in an inviting, authentic sort of way.
It is difficult to really understand a culture without also experiencing its food. My favorite lunch in Amsterdam was a thin baguette sandwich with sliced tomatoes and cheese. It was simple and understated, yet happily satisfying. However, there is much more to Dutch cuisine than what is available in an office cafeteria. Jeniece’s friend Ingrid Wijers shared with us a traditional family recipe for Griesmeel Pudding met Bessensap (Semolina Pudding with Berry Coulis). This dessert is a cross between panna cotta and polenta. The creamy pudding is interspersed with tiny pearls of semolina. Even though it holds its shape (you are only limited by the molds you have…Ingrid even made one in the shape of a fish), the pudding melts in your mouth when you eat it. The sweet tartness of the berry coulis is the perfect contrast to the creamy vanilla pudding.
So if your dream is to travel around the globe, but the $30,000 price tag is a bit too much then consider booking a trip just to one country first, or plan a “round the world” culinary adventure by making a dish from a different country each week. And whether or not your passion is photography check out Jeniece’s Brown Cafes series, which is currently on display at Brouwerij Lane until May 6th. You can experience gezelligheid first-hand while sipping one of their many beers, and seeing the series in person just may inspire you to sign up for that photography class.
Griesmeel Pudding met Bessensap (Semolina Pudding with Berry Coulis)
100 grams (3/4 cup) semolina flour
75 grams (1/3 cup) sugar
8 grams vanilla sugar (can substitute with 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
1 liter (4 1/4 cups) whole milk
1 egg white
Beat egg white until stiff.
Combine the semolina flour, sugar, salt and vanilla sugar (if you are using vanilla extract do NOT add it yet).
Bring the milk to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Gradually add the semolina mixture while continuously stirring so that it does not burn.
After 2 minutes, remove the pot from the heat. Continue to stir until the mixture is cooled. To speed up the cooling process, you can place the pot in a pan of cold water. (Add the vanilla extract to pudding as it cools if you are substituting.)
When the mixture is no longer hot, fold in the egg white. This will give the pudding an airy quality.
Pour the mixture into a pudding mold that has been slightly moistened. (I used six small silicone molds.) Lightly tap the mold on the counter in order to remove large air bubbles. Cover the mold with plastic wrap. When the pudding has cooled to room temperature, transfer the pudding to the refrigerator. Chill for 2 hours.
Run a thin pairing knife around the edge of the mold and flip over onto a plate to unmold the pudding. Top with chilled berry coulis.
1 pound fresh or frozen berries (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries)
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the berries, sugar and water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the lemon juice.
Dissolve the cornstarch in 1/2 teaspoon lukewarm water. Add the cornstarch mixture to the berries and bring to a boil to thicken. Remove from the heat and let cool before transferring to the refrigerator.
Macy’s Cinco De Mayo Cooking Demo
Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with my free cooking demo at Macy’s Herald Square Cellar 34th St. & Broadway, NYC on Thurs, May 5th 1pm – 2pm.
Williams-Sonoma Mother’s Day Brunch Cooking Demo
Learn how to bake cranberry scones with orange-honey butter in my free cooking demo at Williams-Sonoma 59th St. & Lexington Ave, NYC on Sat, May 7th 2pm – 4pm.