And the word in Flanders was "genieter"

Post date: Mar 25, 2010 5:53:10 PM

I once suggested to a native of the Antwerp area that the Flemish speak very quickly for "Northern Europeans". He was a bit miffed, and explained that the Dutch (i.e. people in the Netherlands) consider the Flemish to be people of the warm south, with a penchant for good living fostered by their former Burgundian overlords, who oversaw a period of prosperity and cultural development in the region during the fifteeth century.

Amazingly (or perhaps not amazingly), this love of the good life is clearly evident in Belgium today: the Flemish (like all Belgians: see earlier posts) enjoy their food and drink enormously, and have an appetite for consumption that, in my experience, contrasts sharply with their northern neighbours' more staid (dare one say Calvinistic?) approach.

During my two-week stay in Flanders, I was impressed by the sheer quantity of excellent food consumed at lunchtimes in the work environment. Both men and women were happy to eat a soup or starter, followed by a main course, followed by a sandwich, followed by cheese and/or desert. I joined in with relish (except for the bonkers sandwich course). As I have said before about Belgium, this is my kind of country!

One of my colleagues summed it up with the words: "Ik ben een Belg, ik ben een genieter" (roughly: "I'm a Belgian; I enjoy stuff").

To cap it all, I returned briefly to Ostend (mentioned in an earlier post) where I again observed the locals chomping their hot whelks with gay abandon on the Visserskaai (fishers' quay).

The sole gastronomic disappointment was Bruges, where the only alternative to a sit-down restaurant meal (for which I had insufficient time, given the crowds) was a Subway and a chip stall. Guess which one I went for. And don't even get me started on the beer. The sheer poetry of the list of brews I tried makes me feel like going back tomorrow: Grimbergen Blond, Brugs Tarwebier, Brugse Zot, Westmalle Trappist, Leffe....

Ik denk ik ben ook een genieter.