A few weeks ago, I talked about the Supply Chain of Belgian Beer (click here to read that) and shared some trivia. Some folks suggested a follow up on frites or french fries. I will share a few more interesting things I learned about Belgium during my trips there. And just to be upfront, unlike the last post, this one does not even attempt a connection to supply chain issues.
Still On Beer: A clarification from the last post- I talked about a bar in Ghent that serves ‘max beer’ in the original coachman’s glass. However, if you order this beer, you have to deposit one of your shoes. This shoe is put in a basket which is then raised to the rafters for the evening.
At the time of that writing, it was not clear to me why this practice exists. However, I have been educated by my colleague Jelle on the reason behind this. The coachman glass is a collector’s delight and a prized souvenir, even more so after a night of drinking. As a result, the bar has come up with this novel approach of ensuring that patrons do not leave with the glass, unless of course, if they want to walk sans one shoe. I cannot be sure if this works as a glass saving technique; I am very sure that it works very well from a marketing point of view.
Next, let us talk about the French fries (or frites as the Belgians call it). What has Belgium got to do with French fries you ask? Everything, if you ask the Belgians. If you believe the word from my Belgian colleagues, what we know in the US as French fries is named incorrectly. It should be called Belgian fries. Because, as per my colleague Philip, the technique of frying the fries twice was perfected in Belgium and not in France. I did find some support for this on the web here; not to suggest that I trust the internet more than my colleague… well maybe a little bit. However, depending on when the fries made the cross-Atlantic journey, it can be argued that they were indeed French at the time. As the country of Belgium did not officially exist till 1830 and according to the web page, they have been cooking these fries since at least 1680.
Two other things worth mentioning about the frites: The correct (read Belgian) way of eating the fries is with mayonnaise and not ketchup. And we could have avoided the whole naming of fries to freedom fries if they were named Belgian fries instead.
Belgian Waffles are truly Belgian, but unlike in the US, they are thought of as dessert in Belgium. So much so that when I suggest to my Belgian colleagues to go to a Waffle House for breakfast, they look at me funny. (Bram, I am thinking of you as I write this.)
And Belgian chocolates: well, they are the best. Enough said. We get to sample them every time one of our colleagues visits from Belgium and we also share the same with our clients as an end of the year gift.
Some other tidbits in no particular order:
Holy cow! Over the last 200 years, some folks in Belgium have worked hard to breed a very muscular cow- the Belgian blue. It looks like a body-builder, all sinewy and strong. However, according to the reports, no steroids were used in this creature, only a very selective breeding program.
Holy Pigeon? – Belgian pigeons are considered the best in the world. There is new found interest for these pigeons in the Asian market and National Geographic even did a story on it. One of these birds, Bolt, was auctioned for 310 thousand Euros. And at the same auction, a pigeon family was auctioned for 4.3 Million Euros! Don’t believe me? Then have a look at this link. Now that is what I call an impressive bird.
Who needs a government? Belgium holds the world record for the longest period in the history of modern nations without a government – 535 days to be precise. This happened in 2010-2011. Meanwhile, in the same period, many other countries saw many governments come and go! All this because the two biggest parties could not agree on a power sharing arrangement. From what I could tell, my Belgian colleagues were actually quite happy that they did not have a government.
The Last Post: Every day since 1928, the Last Post has been played under the Menin Gate Memorial in Leper at 8 p.m. sharp. This is done to remember the dead from the Great War. July 9th, 2015 marked the 30,000th time this has been done.
That last bit also marks my last post on interesting information about Belgium, at least for now. I hope you have enjoyed reading some of these. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.