Monday, June 3, 2013

Monday - it must be Brussels.

With our arrival in and quick departure from Brussels, we took no time to tour the area. We have always found Belgium rather bland and the only thing outstanding that comes to mind is being previously stuck in mayor traffic snarls. Maybe those occasions had been on Tuesdays, and we were caught behind the unending line of tour buses. This trip it was Monday; perhaps there is hope for Brussels sprouts.

Belgium had once been the Roman province of Gallia Belgica and the forerunner to the modern Brussels sprouts were likely cultivated in ancient Rome. The sprouts belong to the same species as cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, kale and kohlrabi. As an adult, I rather enjoy Brussels sprouts, but I have strong childhood memories of their bitter taste and their pungent odour when being cooked. Plant breeding research conducted in the Netherlands focused on a reducing the compound responsible for the bitterness. With today's better-tasting, not bitter-tasting hybrid sprout, there has been an increase in production and consumption. The Netherlands is now the largest producer of Brussels sprouts in Europe, followed by Germany.

European history is complex, with its meandering borders and numerous wars often re-arranging them. Belgium is no exception; at some point it became part of the Netherlands, but after the Belgium Revolution of 1830, the independent and separate Kingdom of Belgium was established. Sixty percent of Belgians speak Dutch, mainly in Flanders, the northern part of the country and forty percent speak French in Wallonia, towards the south.

This trip our destination is Harlingen, Friesland and will have to take a rain check on the bus tours, waffles and chocolates for now.

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