Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Egg of the Devil

Adding to my list of "Things You Probably Would Not See in the US," last Sunday, Brussels - which I remind you is a capital city - was completely car free! It was part of some Car-Free Sunday celebration that has been going on for years, and, I have to tell you, I loved it! While the whole concept is a little insane (Can you imagine downtown Houston closing the inside of the Loop to cars for an entire day?), it certainly made for an incredible day.

Our little community, like many others in the Commune, capitalized on the occasion and held a "barbecue entre voisins" at the Plaza. Had I attended the last Neighborhood Action Committee (NAC) meeting, I, presumably, would have been more prepared, since the NAC organized the whole event. I say "presumably" because my French is still poor and it does not appear to me that anyone else in the 'hood has been practicing their Spench. (See, A Pictured Says A Thousand Words - In Any Language, November 2005 archives.)

Nevertheless, I found out about the BBQ when I ran into Dominick, the non-mayor of the Ville and the president of the NAC, (See, Do They Call You Burger for Short?, May 2006 archives) on the Thursday before the big day. I could tell from Dominick's expressions and hand gestures that something was going to happen in the Plaza. What, I did not know. Dominick must have picked up on my confusion because when we returned from Amsterdam on Saturday afternoon, we had a flyer in our mailbox describing the upcoming festivities. When I say, "describing," I mean it was in French and Flemish.

Since it was already pretty late on Saturday, and the BBQ was the next day, just to be sure, I took the flyer to the supermarche downstairs in hopes of catching the manager, Emir, before closing time so that he could translate it for me. Specifically, I wanted to know whether we were supposed to bring our own food, bring food to share, if food was being provided, etc.. Emir had left for the day, so I spoke to this other guy, whose name kinda sounds like Christopher but starts with an M (I've found that it if I say it really fast and let my voice drop near the end, the guy does not keep correcting me on the pronunciation.)

Now, mind you, Mistopher's English is only slightly better than my French. He told me that there was going to be a BBQ on Sunday. Got that. I asked him if I was supposed to bring food. I received a blank stare from Mistopher. I started forking imaginary food into my mouth from the imaginary plate I was holding in my left hand. Ah, yes, Mistopher says, you will be able to eat the food. (It's episodes like this that probably keep me in the running for the village idiot!)

After some pretty imaginative hand gesturing and a complete slaughtering of the French language, I was able to get across to Mistopher that I wanted to know what I was to bring to the BBQ. Mistopher's response: Some people bring old things in their house they don't want. Merci, Mistopher.

I decided that it would be best to bring one of each -- an appetizer, a main dish, a side dish and a dessert. Since, to my knowledge, there is no such thing as a 24-hour grocery store in Brussels, I had to raid my American food product stash. Talk about taking one for the team.

Sunday morning, I got up early and started making my menu: deviled eggs, Italian chicken (chicken breasts marinated in Italian dressing and Lipton onion soup mix baked in the oven with bell pepper strips, Roma tomatoes and mushrooms), Kraft macaroni and cheese, and a chocolate cake with sugar sprinkles. By 11:00, I was ready for the BBQ.

Dan, on the other hand, had just come off a couple of really tough weeks and would have preferred nothing more than to sit in the recliner and read the paper. That was not going to happen. As I had to remind him - more than once - I'm on the committee! I was already freaking out because I was not there to help set up.

We got to the Plaza a little after 11:00 to find exactly one other person there -- Dominick. Dominick, who is one of the nicest guys I've met to date in Brussels, speaks very little English. Although we attempted to talk, I would hardly describe what we were doing as conversing. It was more like labored sign language accentuated with a few horribly mispronounced words and a lot of shoulder shrugging and head-shaking.

More than once, Dan shot me that "what-have-you-gotten-me-into" look. I ignored it. Ten minutes later, another French-only speaking committee member, Oliver, showed up. When I had reached the point where I was going through my French pocket dictionary reading out phrases, such as "ou est la pharmacie" and "ca pleut comme vache qui pisse", Dan had had enough. He bailed, promising to return after he "took care of a few things." I shot him that "don't-you-dare-leave-me" look. He ignored it and I could have sworn I heard him mumble something about me being on the committee.

One hour and forty-five minutes later, which roughly equates to the entire sections of "survival phrases", "transportation", "hotel help" and "weather talk" in my French dictionary, people started showing up, including Dan for the second time. But, to my amazement, no one was eating any of my deviled eggs, even though I was the only person that had thought to bring an appetizer to the BBQ.

Intent on introducing this side of the Atlantic to perhaps one of the greatest Southern appetizers of all time, I went around the Plaza offering up my plate. Now, normally, I would serve deviled eggs on a chilled glass dish with little cut-outs for the eggs, but, since I left that back in San Diego, I opted for a Chinet paper plate with a lace paper doilie. Martha would have been proud.

Apparently, my attempt to compensate for the lack of proper egg serving platter caused a bit of confusion with the locals as to what type of food I was offering. People would ask, "dessert?" or say, "apres?", which is French for "after." I would respond, "no, oeuf de diable." No matter how hard I tried, I could not get anyone to even taste one. Completely baffled, I ate one in front of some people, and had Dan do the same, to prove that they were, in fact, edible.

It wasn't until I happened upon a table with an English-speaking Dutch family that I realized why no one was eating my eggs. In addition to not knowing what they were, most people were not interested in trying something that I was referring to as the "egg of the devil." Once the Dutch family tried them -- and loved them --- the eggs of the devil flew off the plate.

Copyright 2006 by Cindy Lane. All rights reserved.


Anonymous Manic said...

Wow, how nice to have a BBQ in the middle of the town. Wish I could have tasted on of your oeuf de diable.

9:20 AM  
Blogger V-Grrrl said...

All you had to do was say they were eggs with MAYONNAISE and you would have had more takers!

6:43 PM  
Blogger V-Grrrl said...

All you had to do was say they were eggs with MAYONNAISE and you would have had more takers!

6:43 PM  

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