A Look at Belgian Cuisine

Hello Class!

As I stated in a few of the responses to last week’s posts I would like to focus on food in Belgium this week! Not only because it is one of my favorite topics, but because in my opinion it is an important part of Belgian culture and the way the world views Belgium.

First I would like to give you a little bit of background history on Belgian cuisine. Before 1900 Belgian cuisine was highly influenced by the French, with their extravagant dishes and luxurious lifestyles of the upper-class. It was until after 1900 that Belgium started to develop dishes as their own, rather than copying other nations’ cuisines. With the development of tourism came a new interest in a “local cuisine”. Because food plays such a vital role in our lives, the popularity of consuming a national dish helped build today’s Belgian identity. Most Belgian cookbooks of today veer away from common dishes like moules-frites and more towards specificities in cooking, such as large plates and refinement. However there are a number of dishes I would personally include if I were to write my own Belgian cookbook. They would include:

Typical Belgian frites.

Typical Belgian frites.

1) Frites- In the United States we refer to these as french fries. While the French and Belgians both claim frites to be their own creation, in my opinion they were created in Belgium. As I mentioned earlier the Belgians highly regarded French cuisine before 1900, and thus cooked in the French style. The named developed out of the way in which the potatoes are cooked, the French way. However, because Belgian cuisine did not exist at the time of their creation people started referring to them as french fries, or oftentimes in other parts of Europe as chips. The Belgians are very bitter about this and get quite offended at the mention of french fries! Because of their popularity in Belgium it is common to pass by a number of friteries and snack shops in a neighborhood. Most friteries offer a selection of up to 15 sauces and serve the frites in a paper cone with a tiny plastic fork. They are the perfect afternoon snack after a long day of school!

Moules-et-frites, mussels and frites.

Moules-et-frites, mussels and frites.

2.) Moules- Moules is the French word for Mussels, a popular dish in Belgium that I have yet to try! They are most commonly served with frites on the side. This dish developed because of the high amount of mussels around the Belgian coast (do you remember the name of the northern region and which language they speak?). The mussels can be cooked in a number of ways, of which the consumer gets to choose! It is another dish that is very popular in France.

A Brussels waffle.

A Brussels waffle.

3.) Gaufres- Any guesses on what this word might refer to? If you guessed Belgian waffles you are correct! The concept of a waffle dates back to medieval times, however the waffle we know today is a much more recent creation. In America we have a version of waffle we call the Belgian waffle. I’m sure you’ve all tried one before! As strange as this may sound, the same form of waffle doesn’t exist in Belgium. The waffle was introduced in America at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It was a version adapted and simplified from the Brussels waffle, which is what I eat here. Other waffles include the Liège waffle, American waffle, and Flemish waffle. The difference between each is the list of ingredients used to achieve the final result.  Which type of waffle do you think you eat when you have waffles?

Neuhaus chocolate.

Neuhaus chocolate.

4.) Belgian Chocolate- Chocolate is one of the specialties Belgians are happy to claim as their own, and it is probably my favorite part of Belgian cuisine! The streets throughout Brussels are riddled with various chocolate shops, advertising the best Belgian chocolates. A number of the chocolate companies create their chocolates by hand, which I was able to watch when I visited the chocolate museum in Brussels. Neuhaus, which is probably my favorite chocolate company so far, is responsible for creating the praline. For those of you who don’t know, pralines are chocolates that are filled with a soft almost fudgy center (and they are absolutely delicious!). What is your favorite kind of chocolate?

Liege waffles, covered in all sorts of delicious toppings!

Liege waffles, covered in all sorts of delicious toppings!

That’s a quick overview of the best foods Belgium has to over (or so the tourists believe, because all of the food here is amazing!). A few other specialties include waterzooi (I actually have no idea what it is), beer, and speculoos (a cookie served with tea and coffee). As you can see, Belgium doesn’t focus solely on one food. Instead it is a nation of diversified tastes ranging from frites and seafood to chocolate and waffles! I hope you enjoyed reading about the delicious food I’m enjoying during my time abroad. I can’t wait for you all to try Belgian chocolate!

Have a great week!

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This entry was written by alexnhutchinson and published on October 21, 2013 at 11:11 am. It’s filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “A Look at Belgian Cuisine

  1. Pingback: Tasty Tuesday: Gaufres de Liege (Belgian Waffles) | EF Foundation for Foreign Study Mid-Atlantic

  2. Hello Alex,

    We are responding to your October 21 post.

    Do you enjoy exploring cuisine of multiple cultures in your free-time? Which? I would enjoy it if my family could afford it.
    Why were simple foods of today considered delicacies in the past by the french culture? Why are so common today?
    As you know, french fries are in most cases extremely greasy in America. Are they different in texture etc. in the country in which they were founded?
    What are the fifteen sauces for the frites? How do they differ from the common American sauces for french fries? I would prefer something with more taste to go with my food. IE- not ranch/ ketchup.
    Is there a specific reason you know of as to why there are so many mussels on this specific coast?
    -J. Masters

    Hi Alex I’m Brittni. I am going to respond to your second half of your post.
    What does a Leige waffle look like and how does it taste? And a Flemish waffle? What are some of your favorite waffle toppings? I like Maple syrup and butter. I have had Belgium and American waffles before, i think they taste yummy. What are your top five favorite chocolates? What are your top 5 worst? My favorite chocolates are basic milk and dark chocolates. I also like ones filled with toffee or mint filling. Do you like seafood? What does Speculoos taste like? Are the frites different from french fries> I love food. I especially like Asian food.
    Brit.

  3. Great questions this week!

    I thoroughly enjoy cuisines of different cultures. Europe is the perfect place to experience a variety of foods we might not find in the US, or might not be as popular as others. It’s impossible to pick just one kind of food, I have yet to try a cultural cuisine I did not enjoy!
    Although I’m not 100% positive, I believe that certain foods we consume regularly today were once delicacies because of their newness and perhaps the expense of producing them in that specific time period.
    Frites here in Belgium are much like those in the US. However, anywhere you buy them they are the same size and have the same crispy nature. One big difference is that in the US you never know what cut of fries you’ll get. It’s nice knowing exactly what to expect! Also, they are just as greasy here as in the US, at least in my opinion.
    The sauces tend to vary from place to place. Most have andalouse, which is an orange sauce with a hint of spice, cocktail sauce (what is used in shrimp cocktail), tartar (usually for fish and chips), ketchup, mayonnaise, and a number of others! I haven’t tried them all so I’m not sure what a few of them are called or taste like. It’s a goal I’m working on though!
    I have no idea why mussels are so popular! It’s kind of a strange popular food in my opinion.

    Liege waffles tend to be chewy. Within the batter they put little pieces of sugar that melt upon cooking, so each bite is sweet and delicious! They are the waffle that usually has all sorts of toppings. In other words, a liege waffle is what Belgians consider a tourist waffle. A Flemish waffle is typically rectangular and somewhat crunchy. They are usually served with a light sprinkle of powdered sugar. The toppings I always get on my waffle here are nutella (which they love here!), strawberries, and whipped cream.
    Chocolate is one of my favorite foods, so I don’t have 5 least favorites. When I buy chocolate here I tend to buy a variety box. I’ve grown to love pralines (which I described in my post) and rocher, which is a crispy, nut-filled ball of chocolate. I’ll be sure to bring back a few pieces that you’ll like!
    I love certain types of seafood! I quite enjoy salmon and crab legs, however I’m not a huge fan of shellfish (like clams and oysters).
    Speculoos has a very strange taste. The closest resemblance in my opinion would be gingerbread cookies! You’ll definitely get to try one when we have our party!

    Talk to you guys next week! Have a great weekend 🙂

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