"Xenophobe's® Guides: Food & Drink"

Xenophobe's® Guides: The Belgian diet

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Is it French or Flemish? Prepare your taste buds for the buffet that makes up Belgian food.

Xenophobe's® Guides: A book series that highlights the unique character and behaviour of different nations with insight and humour.

The food of Belgium is now acknowledged as among the very best in Europe, and many of its restaurants have earned all kinds of the most respected international garlands and awards.

The cuisine is essentially French, and though many of the top-rated restaurants are in Flanders, even the Flemish accept that the language of haute cuisine is French – but Belgian chefs have kept their feet firmly on the ground. They treat pretentious cooking with the same scorn as overpriced cooking: they vote with their feet. Restaurants that are not up to scratch quite simply fail.

Good, honest food, prepared with craftsmanship, is what the Belgians like. These standards apply equally to the charcutier, to the pâtissier, even to the owner of a humble chip-van, as much as to the great and grand restaurants.

The Belgians like to eat plentifully, and take their time about it. Children regularly accompany their parents to restaurants, and are helped to endure the two or so hours that lunch might take not only by being given whatever they want from the menu (Belgians become gastronomes from a tender age), but also by arriving armed with toys, magazines and colouring books to keep them occupied.

Lunch often drifts into late-afternoon coffee, when sumptuous tarts will be set out on the table back home and forced into any remaining vacant corners of the digestive tract. Tarts are the crowning glory of the pâtissier's art, exquisitely made pastry filled with custard, cream, fresh fruits and fruit-jelly or chocolate. Every community has its expert pâtissier. Indeed it might be considered the ultimate in social deprivation if it did not.

For more, read The Xenophobe's Guide to the Belgians.

 

Reproduced from Xenophobe's Guide to the Belgians by kind permission of Xenophobe's® Guides.

Photo credit: ralph and jenny / Republished 2016.

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