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obse rvation deck : a lo cal view

fter two years living in Paris, moving to Brussels was a


opened in Lige in the 1860s (perhaps the origins of the frite are mired
revelation. In Paris, I was fulfilling a long-cherished teenage
in controversy) and successive generations of migrants have enriched
fantasy. But I learned some hard truths about my dream city:
the gastronomic landscape with their own street food.
most devastating of all, it was completely unacceptable to eat in the
It came as no surprise when Brussels city council recently launched
street. I learned the hard way, as, biting straight into a luscious clair
an official food-truck tour a European first with selected gourmet
in the chi-chi 17th arrondissement, I was
met with an audible tut of disapproval and
a barrage of censorious looks from passersby. The final indignity came with a sardonic
bon apptit! from a contemptuous
teenager. Paris was a gastronomic
In Brussels, Emma Beddington discovers her biggest luxury of all: the
wonderland, but a fiercely regimented one.
freedom to indulge in the great foodie pleasures of life on the street
Two years later, I moved to Brussels and
the sensation was like kicking off a pair of beautiful-but-toovans across the city offering creative treats, from pastrami buns and
tight shoes: a happy exhalation of relief. In Brussels, far from
croques monsieur to organic soups and Thai noodles.
being a vice, eating on the street is virtually a civic duty, and,
I live in a city unapologetically, single-mindedly committed
wandering my new neighbourhood, street food was everywhere.
to pleasure. Its a place that recognises that small indulgences
The friterie on the corner sent forth a constant stream of
arent trivial or shameful; rather, they are precisely what
happy punters tucking into outsized parcels of fries. Outside
make life worth living. A steaming cone of triple-cooked
Zizi and Il Gelato, the two local ice-cream parlours, a queue
beef-dripping frites, or a thick, aromatic Pierre Marcolini hot
of all ages, shapes and nationalities waited patiently for
chocolate with a spiced Speculoos biscuit? Go on, whispers
scoops of pistachio gelato or bitter-chocolate sorbet until
Brussels, youre a long time dead. You deserve it.
late into the night, even in winter. Every afternoon,
And that philosophy echoes through city life: its
a waffle van, exhaling a heady scent of vanilla
an indulgent place to live in both senses of the
and yeast, parked outside my sons school.
word, capable of showing reserves of kindness.
Belgium, with its waffle stands and
It might not be the city I dreamed of in my
chocolate counters, is the spiritual
teenage bedroom, but its emphatically the
granddaddy of the street-food
city I dream of growing old (and, I fear,
revolution. The first friterie
fat) in. Bon apptit! Next month: Berlin

ILLUSTRATION: MIA NILSSON/PEPPERCOOKIES.COM

Word of mouth

12

november 2014

BT012 Observation Deck_JA_MM_FINAL.indd 12

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23/10/2014 12:37