April 13, 2005

Ceci n'est pas une frite

Keeping the Belgian flavour this week. The country is celebrating its 175th anniversary later this year with a mass Burgundian culinary feast featuring the national dish: mussels and fries (frites, frieten, but never French fries, we invented the stuff, so there). Unremarkable, you would say, just as the French celebrate Bastille Day with champagne and the Americans give thanks for staving off starvation.
But you didn't count on the Belgian knack of making things needlessly complicated and difficult - something else we have invented. It's reported (in Flemish only, unfortunately) that the mussels would come from Zeeland, as they have always done and always will since Belgium doesn't have any mussel farms, but we do know how to cook them. The trouble came with the frites, where they would come from and who would fry them, all 5 tons of them. The National Association of Frites Fryers (Navefri, I kid you not) demanded the artisanal right to fry the celebratory load of frites and its 5,000 members offered to cook them for free. No problem, but a Walloon minister could only approve the delivery of Walloon potatoes if their provenance could be traced to individual farmers, god only knows why, we're not dealing with mad cows here. Impossible, said the organisers, and they proceeded with ordering 5 tons of frozen fries from Canadian deepfreeze multinational McCain.
So there you have it: the Belgian national dish: Zeeland mussels with Canadian fries. No-one can dispute it's globalisation in practice.

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