Sunday, 17 February 2013

Just In Time For Christmas!

Suddenly we were all in Belgium, in a suburb of Antwerp called Berchem. Our appartment less than 100 meters from the station. The shadows were long on the ground, the skies cold and the apartment dressed with the bare essentials, a TV, mattresses on the ground for us to sleep on, some bedding and suitcases. A TV an essential I hear you ask? Yes, in this cold climate and approaching winter it’s very much an essential in a two bedroom apartment. I was lucky enough to pick it up at a good price during a sale at Mediamarkt. The most important new addition to the apartment though was my little family I’d missed so much, my wife and daughter and what a windfall! This all just in time for Christmas!

Us adults (mommy and daddy) didn’t exchange Christmas gifts this year. There simply wasn’t time to find each other that “something special” gift. We barely had enough courage and time to get a Christmas tree from Brico. We did get Speculoos, my daughter, some gifts because it’s written somewhere in “The Great Book of Rules of the Universe” that a child must get a Christmas gift if at all possible! Mommy and Daddy (that’s my wife and I) decided that a little indulgence in the new ingredients and foods available to us would suffice to make us feel Christmassy enough.

I hadn’t done much exploring around the neighborhood. I had the general feel of the place but hadn’t really gotten under the fingernails, you know, the side alleys and obscure places and such.  We, as a family, decided to take a few “wandels” (that’s a walk) to explore our new neighborhood and we soon found out that we were in the thick of some beautiful architecture and a tourist hot spot for some of the most beautiful homes. One block away from us was the elegant and beautiful Art Nouveau neighborhood of Zurenborg. This is where we later ate our first good Belgian burger in a place called De Burgerij.

The winter was uncommonly wet and because of this, the trees were confused thinking it was spring or so the news report said. I just found it pretty. The stark buildings of Zurenborg with a contrast of the pretty blossoms and flowers.

Belgium to me is a land of extreme contrasts in colour, weather and architecture but despite this the people are calm, the streets safe to wander and the cuisine narrow and unadventurous. Belgians know what they like to eat and stick to it. Fritten (french fries) and Stoofvlees or Vol Au Vent being the go-to for fast food and a bitter vegetable called Witloof used in most things.  Stark green shows through the autumn leaves, the weather can go through all four seasons multiple times in one day and along with the beautiful and old is the square and modern architecture.

The things that thoroughly fascinate me is the architecture, I saw a real gargoyle on a church, and the new found inspiration I’ve been afforded. With all the wonderful new ingredients and markets, my culinary funny bone has been tweaked! I look forward to the weekends purely so I can spend them looking for or trying out something new in the kitchen!

I used to make a fantastic burger in South Africa, but the quality of the burger waned somewhat simply because the key ingredient, used in the sauce was finished and I couldn’t find a replacement. For the first time in probably two years I made the Gabriel Burger as it was meant to be served. The extremely hard to obtain ingredient, truffle oil, was freely available in the supermarkets here and because of the inspiration, I’ve improved some of the techniques used in it’s preparation and the Gabriel Burger has once again become the Friday Night tradition and is better than ever before! It, of course, will always be needing that little bit more refining.

 My little girl seems to love it here too! Everything is pink and happy here for her and she seems to have fitted right in.

It’s like taking our first steps. Everything is wondrous and new! Now we get to begin anew with family traditions and ways.

Ciao for now.

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