Belgium is a country which has learned a delicious lifestyle through its hard times. Over a period of hundreds of years most all of Europe — the Romans, Vikings, Spaniards, the French, Germans and the Dutch, tried to claim Belgian soil for their own. Along with each came their foodways. The Belgian people paid attention to these foodways and borrowed from them for their benefit. As a result, today’s Belgian cuisine is a delicious synthesis of the very best their invaders ever offered.
So, it’s little wonder the Belgian people even today devote a great deal of energy discussing, choosing, preparing and consuming food. They reason they eat three times a day, so it might as well be a feast each time. Ruth Van Waerebeek shares this view in her aptly-named book, the Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook. There’s not very many Belgian cookbooks, as most recipes have been handed down in the oral tradition.
As far back as the Middle Ages the people developed their own combinations using this Pan-European exposure. They started making a practice of combining sweet-and-sour or sweet-and-salty. Examples were roast leg of lamb with pungent mustard, buttermilk soup with apples and braised chicken with grapes. They take great care with their spices, herbs, dried fruits and nuts, as well.
“Our customs, traditions, folklore and festivals were frozen in time, which has remained doggedly faithful to its origins,” the cookbook states. This is why Belgians like to say, their sophisticated food is “cooked with French finesse and served with German generosity.” The Belgian food fame is wide. Well-known are their “frietjes” which are twice-fried French fries, succulent mussels, jumbo waffles, finest rich chocolate, 165 different cheeses and over 350 distinctive beers. Thanks to Belgians, two world-popular vegetables came into being. The curious Brussels sprouts were “engineered” there over 400 years ago, and the pale, delicate Belgian endive is their twice-grown agricultural discovery, 30 years in development.
Belgian chocolate ranks with the very best. Over 2100 posh chocolate boutiques share this rich tradition with the world. Common wo/men to kings and presidents order the best. n. The Wittamer brand is consider the best, Godiva and Neuhaus rank near it. True Belgian chocolates have no preservative and no artificial coloring, and best ones are made with fresh cream, lasting only a few days.
National dish, mussels with fries (Frietjes) with mayonnaise, béarnaise or curry sauce.
Deeply flavored port wine served with liver pate and prunes
Juicy eels in lemony cream sauce
Herring baked en papillote with herb butter
Partridge and red cabbage simmered in dark ale
Venison stewed in hearty red wine, roasted with pungent mustard and sautéed with piquant gin and juniper berries
Rabbit sautéed with cherry beer and dried cherries
Buckwheat pancakes topped with bubbling Gruyere
Chicken and eel in sorrel sauce.
Sautéed monkfish on a Bed of Belgian Endives in Beer Sauce
Truleye, cold soup with crumbled gingerbread. A hot version is made with beer, sugar, butter and nutmeg
Groaning Christmas tables traditionally present a menu of pea and smoked ham soup, thrushes simmered with sage and juniper berries, casseroles of St. George’s mushrooms and a saddle of hair with a mountain of cranberries. This saddle is surrounded with small Ardenne potatoes carved into the shape of goat’s horns.