Brazil 2014: The Delicious Game – Belgium edition
Thank you, USMNT, because the next opponent could be the most delicious yet. Alex White is here to guide you through the delights of making a meal out of a match against Belgium…
While the general populace celebrates USMNT’s successful clash with Germany, we here at OTF know that you are different. Your first thought is the Delicious Game, and the practicalities of feeding the hungry masses that will appear at your door on Tuesday, ravenous for soccer, and thematic foods, and beer.
Fear not! For the next opponent is Belgium, and there’s a saying about Belgian food: it is served with the quantity of German food and the quality of French.
As you might expect from that adage, many Belgian dishes are more refined, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them your own. Sure, you could lay out charcuterie and pâté, but maybe just for the first plate.
After that, fill in with bologna and cheese slices, particularly as the beer kicks in (we’ll get to the beer, don’t worry).
And what is a croque, really, but a ham and cheese sandwich? I’m sure you can see the possibilities already…
Because there are better ways to spend your time. One of them is with making as many frites as you possibly can between now and Tuesday. That may sound intimidating, until you realize that they are simply French fries–an expression unbearably painful to Belgian ears.
The story goes that American soldiers mistook Belgium for France while they were snacking (could the beer have kicked in already?) and misnamed the dish. But that was only as far back as World War I, and Thomas Jefferson got “potatoes served in the French manner” in 1802. Perhaps that just means they were lobbed down to him from Quebec.
Anyway, to keep the Belgians happy, don’t call them French, and don’t call them Freedom, just “frites” will do–or “frieten” if you want a Flemish flair.
The trick with your frites is how you serve them and with what. To call it a dish is a misnomer: Belgian frites are served in paper cones (a “cornet de frites“), perfect for tailgates with few tables.
For a basic-level pairing put a dollop of mayonnaise on top of the frites instead of ketchup, though if you want to really impress, there are so many side sauces to offer. My favorites are aioli and curry ketchup, but really: go wild.
That’s right, the old “Muscles from Brussels” nickname for JCVD isn’t just a rhyme, it’s a pun as well! (I am tickled to no end by this.)
But in all seriousness, the place is crazy for mussels, and the week the season opens is celebrated in every restaurant. Pair with fries, and you’ve got a refined food that is also nicely snacky.
For your desserts and sweet dishes, things get really fun. There can be only one choice, however: waffles and chocolate.
That’s right, pair up the best of Belgium, perhaps with strawberries and whipped cream on top, and your tailgate guests are now enjoying the street food that is the envy of the world. And best yet, the chocolate you choose from can be one of 2000 very high end varieties…
But the people cry out for more! For the drink to quench a powerful frites-and-waffle-induced thirst: the people must be beveraged.
Let’s start with something for the non-beer drinker: Jenever. It’s Belgian gin, probably of high quality. I reserve any further words for the beer.
We Americans are truly blessed this Cup, able to follow a tailgate of German beers with those of the Belgians.
For this small, amazing country so loves its beer. In a place roughly the size of Maryland, 180 brewers create over 1100 different beers. The Belgians care so much for perfecting the flavor of their drinks they create customized glasses for nearly every one.
If you must have a recommendation, it would be a Trappist beer.
These must be produced in a monastery with the monks playing a role and all profits going back to support the monastery. Only 10 of these breweries exist, with one in Austria, tow in the Netherlands, six in Belgium, and one in America. You should note that “Trappist” designates the style of production, not the characteristics of the beer itself.
But let’s shine a light on Spencer Trappist Ale, brewed by the monks of St. Joseph Abbey, in Spencer, MA; in the tradition of their order, and after extensive research of their Belgian brethren. Surely this must be the beer to mark the occasion of America’s most significant interaction with Belgium since that unfortunate misunderstanding over fried potatoes?
Enjoy! And let us know which one you went with over at @OTFSoccer!
Lastly, we leave you with two toasts in two of the official languages of Belgium (the third official language is German, but we’ve covered that ground):
Flemish: “Op uw gezondheid!” (Pronunciation guide: Just like when someone sneezes!)
French: “À votre santé!”
Drink bi-lingually, readers!
Get more of the Delicious Game, and the rest of our World Cup coverage
Alex White is in desperate need of a salad. Please send low cholesterol thoughts to @A1exWhite