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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Of Endives and Monks

It stands to reason that when you're living in a new place whose language and customs you don't entirely understand, there will be...miscommunications. Errors. Failures big and small. We've experienced that before. When we first lived in Belgium 25 years ago, we visited the Ardennes and stayed at a lovely hotel with an all-French menu. At dinner, I was pretty sure I was ordering some nice game bird for my appetizer. And so I was.

I ordered hypothalamus of woodcock. On toast.

Phil had a similar food error this week. We went to our local cafe for lunch, and he wanted a ham and cheese omelet. But it was pretty late in the afternoon. Unbeknownst to us, the cafe only served lunch items until a certain time. Then it was on to dinner.

The waiter recognized "ham and cheese." Not so much the omelet part. "You want meatloaf?" Phil thought he asked.

"No, ham and cheese omelet," Phil insisted.

"Meatloaf!" the waiter repeated. So Phil shrugged. A meatloaf sandwich would suffice.

Imagine our surprise when, after quite a bit of time had passed, the waiter set down a bubbling casserole. "Meatloaf!" he announced proudly. "Ham and cheese!" Oh wait -- he said "witloof." Not "meatloaf." And so it was. Witloof -- Belgian endive -- with ham and cheese wrapped around it. Very tasty. Extremely large. Quite expensive.

Our other error this week wasn't one of misunderstanding. It was a simple failure to communicate. You may know, if you've been reading the blog, that we're on a quest to acquire the Best Beer in the World, the Westvleteren 12. We've made the nearly two-hour drive to the St. Sixtus abbey where it is brewed only to find that it's closed on Fridays. Since then, extensive research has taught us that to get our hands on this beer, we must pretty much devote our lives to it. It's a multistep process.

1. Call the abbey, between 8:30 and 11:30 on Wednesday. This is easier said than done, since our phone only allows calls in, not calls out.
2. Order the beer. You can only get 2 cases of the Westvleteren 12 during any 60 day period.
3. Provide the monk who answers with a license plate number. This is easier said than done, since we don't have a car.
4. Pick up the beer on a Monday, Tuesday, or Thursday between 1:45 and 4:45 in the car with the aforementioned license number. See number three for why it is easier said than done.

We'd arranged for it all -- phone, license plate number, car. It didn't occur to us that the abbey telephone line would be busy for THREE HOURS STRAIGHT.

We failed.

But we will try again. We will order food in restaurants, we will call the monks. We are not afraid. Watch this space for updates.


  1. Witloof... a dwarf and now endive? Please explain the connection.

    1. You'd have to enter Phil's brain to find that connection. Few would dare.

  2. hmmm, I do love a challenge. So, Phil, any explanation has to why "Witloof" is connected to a dwarf and to endive?

  3. Curious to know what connection the dwarf and the endive have beside their name "Witloof" donnaH

  4. The Flemish word "witloof" comes from the name of the dwarf Vander Witloof, as many people believe endive looks like a small, or dwarfish, head of lettuce. Before 1600, what we call endive was known in Flemish as "endijv."