29 September 2010

Things Belgian People Like

We're already in Luxembourg (see Merlin's first post about Vianden below), but I wanted to back track to Belgium for a second.

Mussels. Almost every restaurant in every town had a huge banner outside proclaiming that the moules had arrived. Apparently, the mussel season spans from September - April, so we came at the perfect time.
I couldn't tell if all the banners were the same because they all got their moules from the same company or if it was something the Belgian government sponsored. You'd see mussels being eaten most often "natural" (meaning simply in the celery/onion broth their were cooked in as opposed to in cream or white wine or tomato). It also seemed to be more of a lunch thing than a dinner thing.

Branded Glassware. Every beer comes in its own glass, allowing the company to choose exactly how it should best be served. Some choose narrower tops, some wider tops, some really go for the gusto, like Kwak, which created this nifty device in the late 1700s.
When you pour your beer in, it creates some major foam. I guess it's an attempt to make it seem like it came from the tap. Branded glassware extends beyond beer.
Sprite, Lipton Iced tea, Vittel water all have their own glasses. You'll always know kids are drinking chocomel by the huge yellow orange up to their face. Every instant soup I ordered came in a yellow bowl that said Knorr.

Freshly Squeeze Orange Juice. This is something I first noticed in the Netherlands, so it may very well be a thing Dutch people like, too.
Sure, we have OJ all over the place in America, but here it's almost all fresh-squeezed. Don't bother buying it any other way, even the FEBO served freshly squeezed juice alongside their vending machine hamburgers.

Complimentary Snacks. This was probably my favorite thing about drinking in Belgium. Every thing you ordered came with some sort of snack. The coffees came with a cookie or a miniature nougat bar. The beers came with nuts...

or olives...
or headcheese?
(I'm pretty sure Merlin ordered this accompaniment himself. I never can tell what he's saying in French).
My personal favorites were the offerings at Cafe Saint-Arnould in Bouillon. Plump, juicy macaroons came with hot beverages and freshly popped popcorn came with cold ones.

Sliced Bread. Everyone loves bread and Belgians are no different. However, when I saw this bread vending machine I knew I was really in some bread-loving territory.
It wasn't unusual to see a a construction worker eating a plain loaf of bread, slice by slice, for lunch or fellow hostel stayers pile five or six slices on their plate for breakfast.

Cats. For some reason, half the postcards I saw in Belgium featured cats. When we walked past print shops, there were cats again. It seems to be a country that really likes their felines. I think these dogs could tell.
Street Food. Merlin covered this subject, but I had to mention it again here and offer this picture, showing the diversified offerings one may find at a single street vendor.
Beer. It seems like it should go without saying, but Belgians like their beer more than you can ever imagine. They don't just like drinking it, they like making it and telling you about it. Everywhere we went, we asked for the "local" beer and - lo and behold - there would be one. We're not just talking about regions, either. Most of the time, there was a beer right from that town (sometimes containing the local bacteria). No matter what you ask the bartender, they'll always tell you the local beer is the best. Be warned, Belgian beer is much more alcoholic. Some are up to 12% alcohol content (compared to your average 4% American beer).

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