This post is extraordinarily belated and long after my last post, but all of my writing recently has been focused on an important research paper regarding the plight of the Roma people in France. As if that wasn’t enough to occupy me, I also went on a study trip to Brussels last weekend, which kept me busy and my mind occupied nearly constantly. But in the moments when I was free I was able to get a feel for the wonderful blend that represents all of Belgium.
Imagine eating escargot at dinner…. and then chasing it with Dutch beer. That food analogy is the best I can come to describing the general atmosphere of the Belgian capital (And arguably the capital of Europe). It is very unique with it’s location between France and the Netherlands and the ethnic devision of the people. The capital is disorienting because the architecture leans toward Danish origins, but the language most frequently spoken on the street is French.
However, as in any city, I thoroughly believe that if you can get a feel for the cuisine, then you can get a feel for the culture, so I dove into my Belgian options. My time and funds (and those of my accomplices) were limited, so I turned to every budget traveller’s best-friend; street food.
The first option I passed was reminiscent of the French I had left behind on the other side of the border- escargot, sold from a street cart. I was sorely tempted, but I shied away nervously. Something tells me that Belgium doesn’t have an FDA equivalent that checked this man’s business out on a regular basis… And if I’m going to eat snails, I prefer only the best that the mollusk world has to offer me.
Moving on, I resigned myself to making a beeline toward the tourist traps at the center of the city. At this point I was well aware that I had under 3 hours until my train would be leaving, so I needed to make the most of that time. I took more pictures in the Grand Place (read that with a french accent or it just won’t sound good) and then traipsed the well worn path to Brussels’ famous Manneken Pis. On the way I scoped out all of the shops that I wanted to check out.
Finally deciding that it was nearly an acceptable lunch hour, I bought a sinful amount of chocolate truffles to enjoy on the train (one of each kind, because who can choose from the huge variety than every Belgian chocolate store offers?!). Then, I re-traced my steps all the way back to the very first waffle stand I had seen on this street. Watering at the mouth I ordered a belgian waffle with chocolate syrup and banana slices. I paid, staring reverently at the food and then retreated to a set of cathedral steps to eat my treat while people-watching.
Well, I wound up doing more food-watching than people-watching. With just the tiny plastic fork I had been provided it was a little tricky to chow down on my waffle and anyway, I was utterly obsessed with my treat. It was the perfect level of sweetness with a wonderful lightweight consistency. Add my love of chocolate and bananas to the equation and you have the perfect food. I could scarcely believe that I was lucky enough to be eating a Belgian waffle in Belgium.
Having eaten one of these in Amsterdam when I was ten, I was on the verge of regressing into childhood, but then I sat up with just an ounce of dignity because I was proud to have gotten myself to that spot where I was able to eat the perfect dessert without any help. Waffles and chocolate= a recipe for a feeling of accomplishment.