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Belgium’s eating and drinking tradition

While doing some filing I came across a few notes takien from the Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook by Ruth Van Waerebeek and Maria Robbins.

Quite honestly, the best way for me to keep track of these lovely quotes is to store them here.

“Given this bounty of wonderful food, it may surprise you to learn that there are few cookbooks devoted to Belgian cooking published in Belgium. The reason is simple. In Belgium, the secrets of cooking are still transmitted orally. Recipes, techniques, tradition, tastes and passions are passed along from generation to generation . . .”

The book emphasizes a strong link between brewing and cooking traditions (see below), so a few points seem worth emphasizing:

– In a conversation with Brother Joris, the monk in charge of brewing at Abbey Saint Sixtus (Westvleteren), he explained why he did something a particular way. He simply learned the practice from Brother Filip, the previous brewer. “That’s our training,” Brother Joris said. “The knowledge is passed on from brother to brother.”

– To celebrate 60 years of operation, Bert Van Hecke is producing a special version of St. Bernaruds Abt 12 at Brouwerij Sint-Bernardus, located not far from Westvleteren. For 46 years, Sint-Bernardus produced beer under contract for Westvleteren – beer that was sold under the Saint Sixtus label in the United States.

Because the head brewer from Westvleteren helped set up the Saint Bernardus brewery, it seems likely he brought along the original Westvleteren recipes, and Van Hecke says that to his knowledge the recipes haven’t changed since.

As you might understand, neither Brother Joris nor Van Hecke is handing out detailed information about their recipes but based on what they will say the recipes for Abt 12 and Westvleteren 12 are no longer the same. That’s what happens when things are passed on via verbal communication – they change, maybe for the better, maybe not.

– Not not only are recipes passed on but also tastes and passions. Just as important. Make that more important.

Another great quote:

“What makes them (brewers) unique is that over the centuries these beer brewers have remained faithful to their origins and traditions and thereby have developed a degree of perfection, originality, and variety unknown in any other country in the world. The same can be said for Belgium’s extensive and varied beer cuisine.”

Understand why it matters that the passion be kept alive?

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