Upon arriving in Brussels, I was immediately told that I had to try “the chocolate, the cheese, the waffles and the beer." Being underage, I will exclude describing the latter, but the other delicacies of Belgium are certainly worth discussing. These foodstuffs are not only essential parts of the Belgian culture but are, in some cases, vital to the economy and the functioning of the country as a whole. The influence of Belgium's food across the world is demonstrative of how truly big an effect a little country can have.
Our first example of the rich variety of Belgian food begins with the cheese. Of course, I hear you say, cheese is just cheese—what's so special about that? Well, firstly, Belgium has nine types of cheese. That may not sound too impressive, so here is a little perspective. The population of England is 64.1 million. The population of Belgium is 11.2 million- and they make nine distinctive types of cheese. That is certainly worth noting. These cheeses are, in no particular order; Brussels Cheese, Floreffe Cheese, Herve Cheese, Limburger, Maredsous Cheese, Nazareth Cheese, Passendale Cheese, Remoudou, and Rodoric. A mix of soft and hard cheeses, all, save Rodoric, are made from cows milk, the latter being produced from the milk of a goat. The consistent popularity of the incredible cheeses, creamy, salty, solid and soft, when measured against such a small population, suggest that perhaps there is some natural talent.
Next is the chocolate. Belgian chocolate is generally defined as chocolate produced in the country of Belgium, rather than any specific manufacturing process, or the ingredients that constitute it. In 1635, Spain occupied the small country, when its explorers brought back the cocoa bean from South America. This connection allowed large importation of the plant, matching the demand of the highly popular treat from upper and middle classes of the time. The invention of the praline chocolate in 1912 by chocolatier Jean Neahaus, whose company is still one of the most popular chocolate producers in Belgium, is what rocketed the little country into the spotlight. The 172,000 tonnes of chocolate produced each year are demonstrative of the treat’s popularity around the world, once more showing that Belgium truly is good with food.
Finally, Belgium’s most famous treat: the Belgian waffle. Interestingly enough, within the country there is no singularly defined style of Belgian waffle. Rather, there is the Brussels Waffle, and the Lierge Waffle. Both, however, did originate from the same country, and both are globally recognised as Belgian waffles. Their fame originates from the 19th century when baker Florian Dacher, a Brussels’ pastry chef, popularised the term. The delicious yeast pastry is typically served with powdered sugar, melted chocolate, and fruit; though the dessert has somehow transformed into a popular American breakfast food. Nevertheless, it is important to recognise the origins of this delectably sweet treat.
The wonderful food of Belgium is certainly worth a try. Notably, all of its most famous food is dairy-based, perhaps due to the country’s cattle-farming history. The high production of milk left room for many experiments, leaving the world with the outstanding foodstuffs that we know and love today.