Friday, 30 October 2009

The Big Bacon

I did a little crowd-sourcing last week, and asked people (all of them British) what their favourite food was. Result: 80% said bacon, 15% chocolate, and 5% chips.

Bacon is crucial to British meals - there's bacon and eggs (and other things!) for breakfast, bacon sarnie for lunch, and there are fry-ups for later in the day.

479,000 tonnes are consumed per year.

Whilst bacon is eaten all over Europe, of course, I doubt whether you'd find a single French or Italian person, say, who'd list it as their fave.

Admit it, it's remarkable. Bacon flavoured crisps, popcorn... then there is the very popular 5000kcal "Bacon Explosion" (American in origin, but with a huge British following on Youtube -check it out!)

- and bacon has even entered the language -"bringing home the bacon", "saved may bacon" etc.

Another curious thing: Bacon lovers the world over eat mostly rashers, whereas Britons prefer thickly-cut back bacon, which looks a bit like a horizontally-sliced pig.

So why ARE the British so keen on their bacon? What inner craving is satisfied by eating bacon?

(Sorry, couldn't resist!)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

(P)Lucky Little Belgium!

Your favourite country in Europe?

Let me guess- France! No? Okay, Italy then. Fair enough. Both great.
My favourite country is actually Belgium. I can hear you giggle....

Why Belgium? Well I don't think I could ever truly truly love a country which doesn't put food right in the centre of its identity. (This isn't a food blog, but one way or another I will always come back to this topic.) And Belgian food really has it all.

Fom Salade Liegeoise, Pottekeis and Speculoos to Kwak beer which comes in its characteristic absurdly shaped glass, to Moules Frites, to cuberdons (fl. neuzekes) "un bonbon, un peu coquant, un peu fondant" (see image below and And there is waterzooi- which is actually a mixture of chicken and vegetables, although it sounds like a fish), and not to forget Belgian chocolates of course. (Belgians consume 8.3kg of the stuff per annum per person).

Belgium is multi-lingual (French, Flemish and a little German), truly multi-cultural (8% of the population are foreign-born), and seems totally chaotic when it comes to choosing a government.

Which brings one to the downside -Belgium has relatively high unemployment, and there is a nasty divide between Flanders and Wallonia - the latter commanding about 20% more productivity than the latter. And that in turn, causes tensions between the two groups.

But why should that necessarily be such a terrible thing? I think all European countries (no: countries the world over) live with strife, a certain amount of mutual prejudice, and competition. It's part of being a nation. They'll work it out. Eventually, they might even find a mutually suitable government.

Belgium sometimes feels very French, strolling down the old town of Liège for example. But turn a corner, and you would swear you're in Holland. Other towns have a distinctly romantic German Eifel atmosphere, with timbered houses and medieval little bridges.

Ah! Les MoulesFrites! Mosselen met friet!

So let's just hop on the Eurostar and visit Bruges, Ghent, Liège, Antwerp, Namur or Dinant - they all sound so evocative!

P.S. Don't worry- this won't be a geography blog. Interculturalism is a VERY big tent.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Many Countries.. all European

I have never been able to answer the question "Where are you from?" It seems a bit rude (and a bit stupid!) to say "dunno", so at least when talking to Americans, it seems quite acceptable to say "I'm from Europe".

That much I know. I may have gone to school in Holland, gone to university in Germany, but hang on, also in England... I may have Hungarian ancestors, be married to an Englishman.... but it all sounds too complicated, and let's face it - not that interesting. So saying "I am European" says it all, and as far as I'm concerned, says it best.