Monday, February 21, 2011

Passendale

I just got back from vacation, first a week with Jo in the five-star Parisian hotel known as the dorm, then a weekend trip to visit his family in the country with no government but seriously amazing bread. Bread so delicious that Jo's mother packed me some to bring back to Paris. Yes, it's that good.

If you like food, I highly suggest finding a significant other from or a job in Belgium. Family gatherings center around pie and, of course, chocolate. No kitchen is complete without a deep fryer. Coffee comes with at least a chocolate if not also a cookie. And, when you walk into a supermarket at 11:30am, you're greeted with Leffe and Maredsous representatives offering tastes of their beers. This following a week of steak (more on that for another post) and I'm starting to see the appeal of those celebrity detox juice diets. Or more accurately, I now see the months of bread and cheese, pasta and bags of Florette arugula before me as refreshing, not dreary and repetitive. This is, I think, the best result of a culinary vacation, the sense of joy at having eaten well, paired with the sense of relief one's stomach feels at a return to the basics.

My favorite food in Belgium, as everyone seems to find amusing, is a cheese called Passendale. The name sounds Welsh to me, but is apparently a town with significance in Belgian history. And with its very own cheese museum. (Slight NSFWness on one of the cheese museum pages, because European websites can have random topless women, even websites for cheese museums, apparently.) Passendale can be purchased from an actual kaaswinkel, but I'm (more than) content with the sliced, packaged kaas, and see no need to cultivate fancier or schmancier tastes. What is Passendale? It's a bland yet delicious, rubbery in a good way kind of cheese with small holes, but not quite like Swiss cheese, either. It seems to be completely unavailable in Paris; my one attempt at getting a cheese that at least looked like it ended, as cheese purchases rarely do for me, with my throwing it out. Wikipedia, however, claims France is positively swimming in the stuff. (I'm now curious about Tilsit - I always go for the weirder cheeses, and need to move on to exploring the less moldy varieties.) And the website of a nearby upscale cheese shop seems, if not to have Passendale, to at least acknowledge its existence. Sacrilege or not, my quest for non-French cheese in France shall continue.

4 comments:

PG said...

No kitchen is complete without a deep fryer. Coffee comes with at least a chocolate if not also a cookie. And, when you walk into a supermarket at 11:30am, you're greeted with Leffe and Maredsous representatives offering tastes of their beers. This following a week of steak

Substitute "wines" for "beers" and this sounds like Argentina. I liked the bit of Belgium I've seen (Brussels and Bruges), but it felt expensive because I was on a college student budget, so good advice on either having a job or enjoying others' hospitality there.

Phoebe said...

PG,

Argentina, then, sounds delightful.

I'm not sure how expensive Belgium is, because I suppose it depends for what. Good food and (especially) beer won't set you back much, plus there's the fact that you can make a small meal out of what comes with a coffee, but from what I've heard, housing is kind of insane, with prices in the smallish town my boyfriend is from not so far off from NYC.

Daniel Goldberg said...

Ohhh, Belgium. Oh, I love Belgium for so many reasons, but especially for its gastronomy.

Cheese, beer (you say Leffe and Maredsous and I'm there), chocolates, pommes frites with everything and anything.

Yummers.

Phoebe said...

The food rather than the weather, for sure!