Sunday, July 27, 2008

Belgium: Iconic Items

Belgian traditional crafts are heavily textile-oriented: Belgium has been, since the Middle Ages, a center of tapestry weaving and lacemaking.  Bobbin lace, to be specific.  

Bobbin lace is a type of woven lace.  My classmate Cindy learned how to make bobbin lace during our first year of conservation school (it was an assignment - learnt a specific embroidery technique - we all did something different, made samples, and shared).  Multiple bobbins are wound with thread and are twisted and woven together in order to make a piece of lace.  Beginners use something like 24 bobbins, and the real masters can easily use 40 or more.  While we were in Bruges, we saw two small girls who were sitting outside what was likely their family's lace shop, practicing their bobbin lace and collecting coins in exchange for a photograph.

Belgian cuisine is known for several specific items.

1). Belgian waffles.  Belgian waffles in Belgium are quite different than Belgian waffles in the States.  They are smaller and do not have heavy fruit-in-jars-filled-with-preservatives/sugars.  They are also much lighter and, where thinner, are crunchy.  Apparently they always come covered in powdered sugar.  Also really good on Belgian waffles - a little butter and whipped cream.  Lou and I asked a local working at the tour boat stand for a recommendation on where to get good, inexpensive waffles.  The result is pictured below, and was 2.50 euros.  Amazing.

2). Chocolates.  Belgian chocolates are awesome.  Chocolates from the fancy chocolatiers, chocolates from the grocery, all are really high quality.  

3). Mussels.  Huge quantities and really good.  Louise and I split a gigantic pot of mussels.

4). Beers.  I'm not a big beer person, but the one I tried in Bruge was really good.  Observe the empty glass and bucket of shells.


Michael said...

Mom and Dad were down in Pittsburgh today helping David move. The stopped in to see Lea and I and brought some Stroopwafels with them. They were very good. Lea and I now understand your addiction.

Ynn said...

Joe finished off the Stroopwafels tonight. Fortunately your Mom had some earlier and your Dad got a couple before Joe got to them. I think you may have to send a Stroopwafel care package back to the US!

frannie said...

my belgian brother jochem would be so proud of you, jess. especially for loving the beer. he was very ticked when he was no longer allowed to drink beer in the states even though he was 18, and then he actually tasted american beer. and he wasn't upset anymore.

AND, if you ever come back to the mid-atlantic states - specifically my parent's house in philly - jochem's family sends us belgian chocolate every year for christmas. i am totally your belgian-chocolate-in-the-US hook-up whenever you want one. :D