Famosities

  

 

 

 

Chocolate

Belgium is famed for its high quality chocolate and over 2,000 chocolatiers, both small and large.  Belgium's association with chocolate goes back as far as 1635 when the country was under Spanish occupation.  By the mid 18th century, chocolate was extremely popular in upper and middle class circles, particularly in the form of hot chocolate, including with Charles-Alexander of Lorraine, the Austrian governor of the territory.  From the early 20th century, the country was able to import large quantities of cocoa from its African colony, the Belgian Congo.  Both the chocolate bar and praline are inventions of the Belgian chocolate industry.  Today, chocolate is very popular in Belgium, with 172,000 tonnes produced each year, and widely exported.

The composition of Belgian chocolate has been regulated by law since 1884. In order to prevent adulteration of the chocolate with low-quality fats from other sources, a minimum level of 35% pure cocoa was imposed.  Adherence to traditional manufacturing techniques also serves to increase the quality of Belgian chocolate. In particular, vegetable-base fats are not used.   Many firms produce chocolates by hand, which is laborious and explains the prevalence of small, independent chocolate outlets, which are popular with tourists. Famous chocolate companies, like Neuhaus and Guylian, strictly follow traditional (and sometimes secret) recipes for their products.

Seafood pralines (pralines shaped like sea shells or fish) are popular with tourists and are sold all over Belgium.

Waffles

A waffle is a leavened batter or dough cooked between two plates, patterned to give a characteristic size, shape and surface impression. There are many variations based on the type of iron and recipe used, with over a dozen regional varieties in Belgium alone.

Waffles are eaten throughout the world, particularly in Belgium, France, Netherlands, Scandinavia, and the United States.

 

French Fries

Well, you call them French fries...

It is claimed that fries originated in Belgium, and the on-going dispute between the French and Belgians about where they were invented is highly contentious, with both countries claiming ownership.  The popularity of the term "French fries" is explained as a result of "French gastronomic hegemony" internationally, where the cuisine of Belgium was assimilated because of a lack of understanding.

Some people believe that the term "French" was introduced when British and American soldiers arrived in Belgium during World War Iand consequently tasted Belgian fries.  They supposedly called them "French", as it was the local language and official language of the Belgian Army at that time, believing themselves to be in France.  At this time, the term "French fries" was growing popular; however, in the south of Netherlands, bordering Belgium, they were, and still are, called Vlaamse frieten ("Flemish fries").

Beer

Beer dates back to the age of the first crusades, long before Belgium became an independent country. Under Catholic church permission, local French and Flemish abbeys brewed and distributed beer as a fund raising method. The relatively low-alcohol beer of that time was preferred as a sanitary option to available drinking water. What are now traditional, artisanal brewing methods evolved, under abbey supervision, during the next seven centuries. The Trappist monasteries that now brew beer in Belgium were occupied in the late 18th century primarily by monks fleeing the French Revolution. However, the first Trappist brewery in Belgium Westmalle did not start operation until 10 December 1836, almost 50 years after the Revolution. That beer was exclusively for the monks and is described as "dark and sweet." The first recorded sale of beer (a brown beer) was on 1 June 1861.

There are over 800 Belgian beersWest-Vleteren12 (pic) has won the title of best beer in the World several times on the Ratebeer site.

Traditionally, Belgium has at least multiple winners at Beer Brewing Contests every year.

Chicory

The slightly bitter vegetable with the Latin name Cichorium intybus was first grown near Brussels in the 1840s by trimming the leaves and forcing the roots to produce pale white-and-yellow chicons in the darkness of the soil.

We call them witloof.  The French name is "Chicorée de Bruxelles." This may explain why the vegetable is known as Belgian endive in US English, and as (Brussels) chicory in UK English.

Sprouts

Forerunners to modern Brussels sprouts were likely cultivated in ancient Rome. Brussels sprouts as we now know them were grown possibly as early as the 13th century in what is now Belgium. The first written reference dates to 1587. During the 16th century, they enjoyed a popularity in the southern Netherlands that eventually spread throughout the cooler parts of Northern Europe.

Brussels sprouts are a cultivar of the same species as cabbage, in the same family as collard greens, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi; they are cruciferous (they belong to the Brassicaceae family; old name Cruciferae). They contain good amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fibre. Moreover, they are believed to protect against colon cancer, because they contain sinigrin. Although they contain compounds such as goitrin that can act as goitrogens and interfere with thyroid hormone production, realistic amounts in the diet do not seem to have any effect on the function of the thyroid gland in humans.

Smurfs

The godfather of the smurfs, Pierre Culliford (Peyo) is born and raised in Brussels.

The original term and the accompanying language came during a meal Peyo was having with his colleague and friend André Franquin at the Belgian Coast.

Having momentarily forgotten the word "salt", Peyo asked him (in French) to pass the schtroumpf.  Franquin jokingly replied: "Here's the Schtroumpf—when you are done schtroumpfing, schtroumpf it back..." and the two spent the rest of that weekend speaking in "schtroumpf language".  The name was later translated into Dutch as Smurf, which was adopted in English.

 The Smurf franchise began as a comic and expanded into advertising, movies, TV series, ice capades, video games, theme parks, and dolls.

TINTIN

The Adventures of Tintin is a series of comic albums created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi (1907–1983), who wrote under the pen name Hergé. The series was one of the most popular European comics of the 20th century, and it remains popular today. By the time of the centenary of Hergé's birth in 2007, Tintin had been published in more than 70 languages with sales of more than 200 million copies.

margritte

Painters

I will only name a few Belgian artists who have made some of the most profound paintings in history.

Some of the Flemisch Primitives and Early Modern Art are Peter Paul Rubens, Jan van Eyck, Pieter Brueghel, Hans Memling.

In the 19th-20th centuries there's Paul Delvaux, René Margritte (pic), James Ensor, Constant Permeke.

Diamonds

The production and distribution of diamonds is largely consolidated in the hands of a few key players, and concentrated in traditional diamond trading centers, the most important being Antwerp, where 80% of all rough diamonds, 50% of all cut diamonds and more than 50% of all rough, cut and industrial diamonds combined are handled. This makes Antwerp a de facto "world diamond capital.

Firearms

Fabrique Nationale d'Herstal — self identified as FN Herstal and often referred to as Fabrique Nationale or simply FN — is a firearms manufacturer located in Herstal, Belgium. FN Herstal's firearms are used by the armed forces of over 100 nations.

Carrying weapons are illegal in Belgium, so we're safe!

Music

The European new beat sound originated in Belgium in the late 1980s, especially in 1987 and 1988. It was an underground danceable music style, well known at clubs and discos in Western Europe. It is a crossover of electronic body music (EBM, which also developed in Belgium) with the nascent Chicago originated acid and house music. New beat is the immediate precursor of hardcore electronic dance music (at the time known as rave), which developed in the neighboring Netherlands and elsewhere around 1990.

Some of the projects of Belgian producers that sold millions of albums are Technotronic (Pump Up The Jam - 14 million albums/singles) and 2 Unlimited (No limit, Twilight Zone,... - 20 million albums/singles).

Music Festivals

Many music festivals take place in Belgium.  I will mention 2 of the most notorious.

Tomorrowland is a large electronic music festival held in Belgium. It used to be organized as a joint venture by the original founders, the brothers Beers together with ID&T, subsidiary of SFX Entertainment.  The festival takes place in the town of Boom, Belgium south of Antwerp, and has been organized since 2005. It has since become one of the most notable global music festivals.  In 2013, the first edition of TomorrowWorld took place in Chattahoochee Hills in the US.  This event was a great succes.
http://www.tomorrowland.com
http://www.tomorrowworld.com/

Rock Werchter is a Belgian annual music festival held in the village of Werchter, near Leuven, since 1976. It is one of the five biggest annual rock music festivals in Europe (the other four being Exit, Sziget Festival, the Glastonbury Festival and Roskilde Festival). The 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2012 festivals received the Arthur award for best festival in the world at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC). It can host 85,000 guests daily, of which 67,000 combine all four days, to add up to a total maximum of 139,000 different attendees.

http://www.rockwerchter.be

 

Most of the links and information are retrieved from Wikipedia.

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