How Can Food Make Me Smile?
What is gourmet food? It is what feeds our souls. There is the enrichment you feel by indulging in it! It has the power to make us happy!
I love to create and explore. What would it take to expand my horizons?
Travel and eat. I had found the answer to life itself.
Research; hands-on research.
Turning travel into a hobby takes some serious work, but you can do anything you put your mind to.
It’s kind of like getting paid to fly away from home and enjoy a new experience……Works for me. I sew, do macrame, paint, and now, travel. See the expansion taking place?
I can take some hobbies with me, like a needle and thread,
or I can indulge in something else.
Enter my foray into Belgium!
Typically, people spend a lot on a hobby, hence you can be golf-poor, or sailing-poor.
These pastimes are expensive.
For every new interest, you need to research.
For me, the equipment to DO the research was an airline.
Any airline going where I’m going.
LEVEL 1 – Culture Shock
I was not prepared for the culture shock of moving from a country where I drove left for 5 years. It was a mind game to drive on the right side of the road again.
To discipline myself, I looked for the road signs so I knew exactly what side I needed to be on. I craned my neck to see if there were signs on the other side of the road.
It worked in the city.
Not sure how many U-turns were made in the early days.
One night after dark, I jumped into my car and proceeded to drive on the wrong side of the road. I heard a scream, a nanosecond before I swerved back to my lane.
See where I’m going with this?… It was scary!
There is a speech associated with every travel hobby and the onus is on us to read up on it. It is not the host country’s job to speak our language.
I felt that it was a sign of a backward society if everyone did not speak English. (Huh)
Well, why didn’t I learn Flemish before I arrived in Belgium?
I didn’t think it would be necessary. I thought I could fake it.
Try passing that off when you get pulled over for speeding… Good luck with that.
My friend Nancy’s husband trained as a doctor in Belgium.
She faked it and did a great job for four years. While he was studying she was the sole earner in the home.
She became fluent in Flemish; she had a need; she was a superwoman!
The first time I made a purchase, I said “dan-ku”. The salesman burst out laughing.
It was a little rough in translation.
LEVEL 2 – Antwerp
Time to move up to level two in this pastime.
Antwerpen,-Belgium-is-a-cosmopolitan-seaport- and-manufacturing-city-and-the-diamond-cutting-capital-of-the-world! I was agog.
In Antwerp, we interacted with women from other countries through women’s clubs.
Our club was invited to a lunch prepared by middle-east Indian women.
Eastern spices filled the air—ooooh, the smell!
The tables were filled with an array of foods…
This would be a feast!
Some DO Like It Hot!
Don’t mess with Indian curry!
My friend Jo said, “ok, I’ll try that“. If they said it was hot, what would it be like for Jo?
She was speechless!
Enter, The International School!
Social life centered around the international school which represented about 35 nationalities. There were only 400 students and 90 staff in the 1970s.
The school put on a yearly variety show to raise funds.
We all joined in and the professionalism of the cast and crew was impressive!
Then we, the housewives, did our act. It was in the spirit of fun not talent!
It was for a good cause. We will never forget the Bee Gees.
LEVEL 3 – Money!
In all fairness, what will this hobby cost?
At first, you do a mental somersault of the conversion rate….. Stop that!
If you are getting paid in that currency, deal with it. Food is a necessity, after all, so you’ll just have to roll with it.
You could window-shop safely, but there was that conversion thing again.
It was expensive to live in Belgium but they always delivered in high quality.
LEVEL 4 – Explore
This was a rare black-tie event and everyone was going.
I was not ready for the finery of it all.
The venue was a historic landmark, up to present-day standards.
It was lived in, electrified, and plumbed, but the rooms and walls had not changed since
You need to take a hobby to the next level if you want to be really good at it.
Explore Castles for starters!
There was a fundraiser and dinner/dance in one of the local ruins.
The fundraiser? Not sure….maybe a Women’s Day thing? It wasn’t important.
The venue was important!
We drove into the courtyard over a moat, swans gliding along.
In the front door, we were ushered to the foyer, where our gathering was to take place.
At this price, we were having dinner in a foyer? Could we push huge dinner tables and chairs for 250 people into the foyer?
Susan had arranged all of it, so I should never have worried.
She knew how to pick them.
This event stood out and will remain in my memory forever.
The hall was a huge room, opulent and beautiful; bespoke of the early days of this ancient site.
There was a classical orchestra and we waltzed!
The food was outstanding and the service was impeccable.
Such panache.……Such presentation.
LEVEL 5 – Indulge In Local Customs
People had a real sense of family time in Europe. On the weekends the parks were filled with parents and children. Downtown, people took advantage of the city life.
The sports arenas were full, as it rains often in central Europe. So, our husbands whacked away at tennis.
Then, Rykken said, “Let’s play squash”.
I (the practical one) said, “But I’ve never played squash, I don’t know how“. “We’ll learn, let’s go play,” she said.
Some Ideas Are Great!
What a good idea! We were so bad. We had so much FUN playing squash!
I still have my original racket.
Other women we knew, wanted to join us; they didn’t know how to play either!
Was this a good idea? Playing together didn’t make us super-stars;
we were kind of inbred.
But we SO enjoyed the social side; had a glass of wine or beer with lunch, as a way of life in Belgium. Women met their friends for lunch.
I thought we were just so cool.
My squash-player friend Elaine would never sit across from me at the table.
I talk with my hands; I’m a wine-spiller. She’s still my friend.
LEVEL 6 – Fine Dining
Fine dining had to be studied as it might be one of the first things you do.
You want to thank your hosts for helping you to settle into the country.
We booked a dinner for six at Van Dyke in downtown Antwerpen.
We had no idea what we were getting into.
Sadly, two people could not be there, so we were four.
The table had to be re-arranged, so everything was removed and the table was re-set for four people. Ve-ry-nice!
At the end of what was the most impeccable dinner to remember for-ev-er, we received the bill.
Have you ever looked at one of those and wondered if you would need to sell something to pay for dinner? It’s like that deer facing the headlights of a car.
It’s deadly. My husband and I never discussed this…… I spared him the agony.
I was grateful that one couple declined dinner that night. Looking back, they must have known the restaurant. They lived there!
They were looking out for us!
LEVEL 7 – Look The Part
You have to buy the uniform for your hobby. Belgian women have a system for their “new best outfit”.
What was purchased last year, became their secondary outfit this year, followed by the outfit of two years ago.
In ten years, if you dig deep into your closet you will find something that you have never seen before.
Shopping here you won’t see tartan couches and checkered pants.
This is the land of natural fibers and timeless fashion.
Even on a middle-income scale I never saw people dress so well and that included the younger generation. No one in Europe would be caught dead wearing polyester!
They had class combined with comfort, from designer loungewear to sweatsuits.
They have their o-so-high-standards, after all.
What Can You Glean From All This?
Hobbies are varied and personal. They give you dexterity and great hand-eye coordination.
They can open a Pandora’s box of otherwise unattainable experiences.
Living in Europe was gourmet food for my soul. It opened up a whole new world and I can proudly say that my Travel-Hobby has expanded and grown beyond my expectations.
This is what this is about.
Don’t just talk about it…..Take it to the next level!
Next time: SOUTH OF THE D, and Still in Canada