EAT THE WORLD: BELGIUM

In the wake of the terrorist attacks that occurred in Belgium on March 22nd, it seemed crass and disrespectful to post our most recent EAT THE WORLD, as we cooked Belgium. I had actually scheduled this post to go out the day of the attacks, believe it or not, and believing it in poor taste, I canceled it and hid it from public view. But then I read an article that landed in my mail box from one of the many successful travel bloggers that I follow. He quoted an article from Travel and Leisure, written by Nathan Lump, the editor of the publication. Here is what he wrote:

"We also know that part of the aim of terror attacks is to strike at the heart of our business: the fear inspired will cause people to curtail their plans, to cancel their trips, to stay at home. Terrorists may not be directly attacking the travel industry, but they do want to close societies, and travel works against their purposes. Travel fosters human understanding, and empathy for people whose lives are unlike your own; it opens your eyes to otherness, including other cultures and religions. Serious travelers are among the most open and tolerant people I know; their frequent encounters with difference make them expansive in their thinking. Travelers are, ultimately, the enemies of terrorists, and what they believe works against terrorists’ aims, person by person and little by little. I am proud to count myself among these travelers and to work every day to inspire them—and to create more of them."

His words made me change my mind. This is what travel does for me. It opens my mind, broadens my experience, and humbles my own world. You gain a deeper understanding of the world and it's people. You respect differences and gain more empathy. I genuinely believe if more people were able to experience the world, the world that is fundamentally different from them, our hearts grow bigger, and our minds stronger. But there are people in this world who wish to close our minds and when it comes down to it, they are pure evil. So I am going to publish this post, maybe a few weeks later out of respect, but when we are silent, or closed off, and do not travel or experience the world, they ultimately win. And that cannot happen. I send my deepest sympathy for the victims of this terrible attack, and to the people in Turkey, the Ivory Coast, Kenya, and the many other places where these attacks have happened. Indeed it is being able to travel that reminds me that it is not only "the western world" that is under attack by ISIS, and there are many, many more Non-western victims of these attacks. I wish that the western media would understand this too frankly. My heart goes out to all those around the world suffering from extremism, intolerance, and fear. I hope one day we will live in a better world... 

and now for BELGIUM. 

My original post: 

Belgium has finally won out on our next EAT THE WORLD challenge as the Traveling Ninja found out that involved his favorite kind of food - SEAFOOD! It's becoming somewhat funny that so many of our challenges have been seafood so far... But if that's the way we gotta get the TN motivated, that's what I'm going to do. That being said, Belgium's national dish is MOULES EH FRITES ~ Mussels and Fries! 

RECIPE FOR MOULES-FRITES

adapted from Tasting Table

Ingredients for Mussels

  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 medium leeks (1/2 inch rounds)
  • 1/2 fennel head, diced
  • 1 medium shallot diced
  • 1 celery stalk diced
  • 5 garlic gloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups dry white wine
  • 4 pound mussels, debearded and scrubbed
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • warm crusty bread for serving 

Directions for Mussels

  1. Using a large heavy-bottomed skillet or a high-sided cast-iron pan, add olive oil and heat over medium heat.
  2. Add leeks, fennel, shallots and celery. Add salt to taste, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until vegetables are soft but not brown. 
  3. Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf and read pepper flakes, cooking for 2 minutes.
  4. Increase the heat to high and add the wine. 
  5. Bring the wine to boil and reduce by half. 
  6. Add the mussels and cook covered, shaking the pan often. Check every 30 seconds to see if mussels are open. 
  7. As the mussels open, remove them and transfer them to a bowl, placing a cover over the bowl to keep the muscles warm. Remove the pan from heat.
  8. Discard any mussels that have not opened. 
  9. Reheat the liquid from the mussels over medium heat. Return the mussels to the pot and reheat, shaking for 30 seconds to 1 minute. 
  10. Remove the muscles from the pot, and serve with fries, aioli sauce and crust bread for dipping. 

I removed one of the steps from the original recipe - where you have to mix the aioli sauce with the mussels liquid and reheat it. The sauce I made did not taste good, so I have removed all of that from my post - you can click the link above to see the original recipe. 

the Frites and aioli sauce 

I would recommend buying shoestring/thinly cut french fries and bake them. However, you could also buy russet potatoes and cut them thinly and deep fry them. In my opinion, after making fries a few times for this challenge (what is up with that?), it's not worth the pain and torture. This recipe also called for a homemade aioli sauce. IT WAS RUBBISH! Therefore, I recommend buying some from the store.... I'm not even going to put the recipe up here.

MOVIE PAIRING: L'ENFANT

L'Enfant, or The Child, is a film about a poor and young, Belgian couple, Bruno and Sonia. They have a baby together, but Bruno goes and sells it for cash. The film follows how they try to come back from his actions. As it sounds, its kind of a crazy, strange film, and you're often finding yourself saying "What are you doing?!" at the main character, Bruno. An interesting film, where the directors have tried to portray in the realest of ways. It is also a subtitled film which I always enjoy watching.  We rented it from Amazon Video, and the TN still believes I should not be allowed to pick the movies. 

THE TRAVELING GINGER VERDICT:

I really enjoyed this challenge, mainly before the TN took a big role in doing it - so I didn't do as much! He was super excited about another round of sea food, and so he went out and got all the groceries, and cooked the mussels. He did a really good job too! I wouldn't say this was my favorite dish by any means... The mussels were good, and I liked the flavors of the liquid they were cooked in, and french fries are always a good companion in my books. The aioli sauce was truly terrible though. I threw all of it out. I don't know if I messed up the ingredients somewhere, but there was a lot of oil that was put into this recipe, and I genuinely hated it. I would recommend buying your own store bought stuff for sure! Not too shabby for Belgium's national dish however! I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more if we hadn't had to stress about cooking it ourselves. Cooking mussels is a lot easier than you think, but I was worried we would mess them up and give ourselves stomach aches or something. Good, but not as good as Canadian poutine! Sorry Belgium, but I still loved ya! 

RATING: 7/10

 

THE TRAVELING NINJA VERDICT:

Moules et frites... The other mussels from Brussels: 

 

RATING: 8.3/10

Have you ever been to Belgium? Would the recent terrorist attacks in Europe prevent you from traveling there? Tell me in the comment section below.