Brussels & Bruges, Belgium – I’ve died and gone to heaven
May 13, 2011

Start leading a healthy life style and it is only natural that your taste buds will slowly mature and seek out more complex flavors. A decade ago I would have drank a Budweiser. But ever since my compulsion to almost completely eradicate sugar from my diet, my beer cravings have turned “dark”.

If you know your beer, then you no doubt have savored a Belgian beer or two. It does not take long to see Belgium’s love for brew is steeped in history. Although in 1900 Belgium boasted over 3200 breweries, now just over 100 still exist. Despite the massive decline in numbers, you can find specialist beer bars serving over 500 different kinds of beer.

In times past, some of Belgium’s finest beers were brewed by Trappists, a silent order of Cistercian monks – Chimay being one. To induce a second fermentation process yeast is added at bottling, so make a careful pour to avoid disturbing the bottom sediment. While many Abbeys have licensed their beers to commercial breweries, such as Leffe, brew standards remain high.

As of late, a thick dark stout with hints of coffee and a tall creamy head is next to impossible to turn down. Almost as rewarding and surprisingly complex is a Witbier or “white beer”, Hoegaarden being a more mainstream brand. While most beer is made from barley, white beer is made from wheat, making it light and refreshing. Take a minute and savor the subtle hints of coriander and orange peel, laced in cloudy sediment.

Little wonder why Brussels and beer have gone hand in hand for ages. Very interesting to note is the peculiar air that resides along the river Senne that flows through Brussels, home to a natural airborne yeast called Brettanomyces. Brewers for centuries simply left their wheat-beer wort uncovered for the air to naturally add its yeast. Once fermented the beer is then moved to wooden casks. After a year or more drinkers can finally enjoy its slightly winey edge called Lambic, another typical beer in Brussels.

All this drinking would quite possibly increase ones tolerance to alcohol. This is certainly evident in the sheer strength of some Belgian beers. Single (around 3%) double (around 6%) and treble (around 9%) are all dwarfed by beers reaching in excess of 12%.

It is evident that Belgians know how to drink, but they also know how to eat. A tradition linked to festive occasions, freshly made and sprinkled with icing sugar, gaufres or wafels are an indulgence you cannot pass up! Simply the name Belgian waffles rolls off the tongue like something you learned in elementary school. There is nothing quite like watching your fork cut through the corner of a thick Belgium waffle, as the intoxicating sweet scent hits your nostrils. Do not let the sheer thickness fool you, these waffles are light as air with a subtle crispiness, a wonderful display of melt in your mouth ecstasy. Eat to your heart’s content and still walk away feeling satisfied, not bloated nor lethargic.

Belgian chocolate is world-renowned and for good reason. Belgian chocolate manufactures use high-quality cocoa beans and generous amounts of cocoa butter. Traveling to Belgium and not sampling chocolate would be equivalent to touring Paris and not stopping to gaze at the Eiffel Tower. While the majority of hand-made chocolates here are pralines, you get the sense they know what they are doing and have been doing it for a very long time. Handmade Belgium chocolates are generally inexpressive, sampling a handful might only set you back a Euro or two. Start small as these chocolates are very rich and you will get your fill very quickly. Go in hungry and leave feeling like a million bucks, as there is nothing quite like watching someone slip on a fitted white glove, select and then package your chocolates in a highly appealing baggy.

Belgian frites (fries) are arguably the best fries in the world. Surprisingly despite the thickness of cut, these fries are plenty crunchy. Fries are submerged in two oils with different temperatures until crisp and served with a heap of mayonnaise.

Belgians have enough confidence in their home-grown beef that they eat it raw, Filet Americain style. While I was not brave enough to try that, I did enjoy Moules (muscles). Traditionally muscles are served in a big bucket along with fries. Muscles in white wine are a good place to start, but be sure only to eat the muscles which have opened.

So whatever your tastes buds, there is something here for you.

*Source material: Top 10 – Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp and Ghent

“Beer” photo provided by Chow

“Waffle” photo provided by Flickr user: nibblekibble

“Chocolate” photo provided by Flickr user: Leonidas Belgian Chocolate

“Fries” photo provided by Penguin says Feed Me!

“Mussels” photo provided by Lets Talk More


When are we going to grow up?
November 16, 2010

All of us at one time or another have been on the receiving end of that comment. “When are you going to grow up?” Shocked as we may have been, there is a good chance there was a little truth behind the statement. Yes, the truth does hurt! Ironically, the same can be said about millions who struggle with their weight.

Much like a child who objects to his parent’s suggestions, even adults at times make up less than reasonable excuses.

Suggestion: “Maybe you could read up on fitness and nutrition to help you get motivated!”

Answer: “Oh, I don’t like reading!”

Suggestion: “Okay just try to increase your vegetable consumption.”

Answer: “I hate vegetables!”

Suggestion: “You could take a few minutes each day to walk.”

Answer: “Walking is too boring!”

Suggestion: “How about the gym? It can be more exciting than walking.”

Answer: “I’m too busy to go to the gym!”

Sound familiar? Just to make sure, we all know kindergarten is long gone? Playing games and eating goodies all day long is far behind us, and we just might be faced with some less than enjoyable responsibilities from time to time.

It would do us all some good to abandon the belief that our cravings should be constantly satisfied. In reality, most of us eat like kings! We are completely surrounded by whatever our taste buds desire, and have become accustomed to saying: “You deserve it!” Although what we really deserve, is healthy food to build a healthy body.

Since when has sitting on the couch and pigging out become rewarding physically and mentally? As a culture we are seriously confused as to what classifies as rewarding one self. It is time to grow up and stop making excuses, we deserve better and so does our body!

*Photo provided by Microsoft Office Online Clip Art


Does healthy = bland?
March 15, 2010

No! Healthy does not have to equal bland. Two of the biggest culprits contributing to this unfortunate misconception, are the unprecedented amounts of sugar and salt in our day to day foods. This has led us to believe that the only foods that taste good are fast foods and highly processed ones.

Foods with alarming quantities of either sugar or salt are highly addictive, and if consumed regularly can easily leave one depending on them. When it comes to salt, we Canadians even outeat our neighbors in the United States. Don’t think for one minute you can simply boycott fast food chains and live a salt free lifestyle, because it’s everywhere! Why? I’ll have to leave that answer for my next post as I don’t want to get side tracked.

In the meantime, to illustrate the difficulty we face, make sure to grab a soup can from your kitchen and read the nutritional facts on the label. One of the healthier foods you can choose from in your home, right? Well… it still remains a better choice than other highly processed foods, but just look at those sodium levels! Many canned soups will give you upto half of your recommended daily requirements of sodium, so eating more than the serving size and finishing the whole can will be your daily requirement of sodium in one sitting! For more information on this sodium epidemic, Statistics Canada has done a study on Salt Consumption.

The good news is that taste buds adapt to whatever you throw at them. For example, how many of us really liked coffee, wine, olives, oysters or fine cheese the very first time we tasted them. Most likely those foods took a little getting used to because they are an acquired taste.

Well fortunately a balanced diet is much like building up an acquired taste for unfamiliar foods. Healthy foods do require your taste buds to adapt, but you will soon love foods that you never thought you would. Believe me it gets easier with time, and you will soon see your likes and dislikes changing completely. This is great and very important to your progress, because you won’t stick to anything if you don’t like the food you’re throwing down the hatch.


*Photos provided by Microsoft Office Online Clip Art


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