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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Honorary Belgians

We've achieved a milestone. According to our friends Kries and Annie, we have become honorary Belgians.

It's not because of the Wall o' Beer, though I'm sure that helps.

It's not because of our successful pilgrimage to Westvleteren.

It has nothing to do with the fact that I can now say "please" in Flemish.

It's because we've eaten eel. Paling, to be Flemish about it.

I know they're endangered. It's the fault of the Spanish, we're told -- their love of little tiny baby eels (anguilas) has left the few remaining adults eels to the rest of the world. As I discovered with the foie gras, though, guilt adds a certain spice to food.

Kries and Annie took us to a marvelous place, Restaurant Siphon, in Damme. It's known for its preparation of eel, a Flemish specialty. I've sampled eel before, as part of Phil's renowned Feast of the Nine Fishes on Christmas Eve. It was kind of disgusting, but I ate it. And I was determined to eat it again, this time prepared the Belgian way.

The restaurant was beautiful, located amid dairy farms deep in the West Flemish countryside. We started with an appetizer of white asparagus a la Flamande, made with a pound of butter and hard boiled egg -- delicious. Then on to the main attraction. I had eel in cream sauce; Phil had it in green sauce, made with 13 herbs. The owner and his son came by twice to be sure we could handle it. And you know what?

It was very tasty indeed. Tender, succulent, not slimy at all.

So now we've done it. We've plunged deeply into the culture...and we have no regrets.

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