Chocolate, and other edibles

Of course we all knew Belgians love chocolate. I am ashamed to say I haven’t popped into one of the thousands of chocolatiers just yet, but I’m waiting for the weather to get — dare I say it — even colder to fully appreciate the edible warmth. Sabine, our ISA resident director, says the locals get chocolate from Leonidas, perhaps because the shops are literally everywhere. There’s higher end luxury of course, and of course, I’ll experience that in good time.

But that’s not to say my time in Brussels has been void of chocolate. Au contraire, I’ve been eating it just about every day for breakfast.

My host family is required to provide breakfast seven days a week, which means they put out a small tray of breakfasty things each morning along with a pot of coffee and bread fresh from the neighborhood boulangerie.

In the tray there is powder to make hot chocolate, one box of cereal — the Belgian equivalent of Cocoa Puffs, but far better — and five jars. There is one cherry jam, which is almost empty, and there was a strawberry jam that we Americans finished early on and hasn’t been replaced. Then there’s a jar of peanut butter, but it’s been just about empty this whole time. Meanwhile, there are three thriving chocolate spreads — nutella, a milk chocolate and a dark chocolate. Yum.

I am sad to say chocolate has been suspiciously less prominent in my nightly desserts, though. The family did indulge in some tiramisu this week. Last night was a homemade, dense vanilla pudding. Then there was some prepackaged tiramisu in little pudding cups (genius), and a lot of fresh fruit.

And dinners have been filling, although I would never say “I am full” at the dinner table — talk about being rude, according to Belgians. We’ve eaten some creamy pasta, some light tomato soup, some potato-meat casserole, some frozen pizza…

And I’ve been packing lunches of bread-prosciutto-gouda. And I’ve finally experienced Belgian frites, via cone, via friterie, via double-salting. Sabine says locals always get frites with either straight mayonnaise, which I haven’t braved just yet, or andalouse, which I opted for, slopped on top. Andalouse is a delicious, delicious aoli, with hints of tomato, pepper and lemon juice.

With chocolate for breakfast, heart-attacks-in-a-cone, and not to mention the vast amounts of beer being consumed every day, how the hell am I going to avoid buying new pants? Actually quite easily, I think, given the four flights of stairs I hike multiple times a day, and the walks to and from the metro, and the walks that are aimless. Ah, Brussels.

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