It’s official! Mr. English and I have been together two very long but seemingly short years.
Having finally gotten me back in England, Mr. English knew the best way to keep me was to take me back out as quickly as possible. We’ve started a tradition where one plans the anniversary every other year: he has evens. So he told me to pack my bags: no details, no planning, no nothing. As the resident control freak in the relationship, I had to wonder. Was he trying to change me?
I decided to go with it, and I wheeled my little pink Longchamp weekender into St. Pancras station on Saturday morning. He had told me to meet him in Le Pain Quotidien. As I ordered “quotidian” side of Gruyere, I demanded, “Where are we going!” I had, after all, packed cashmere gloves and a bikini.
He motioned around him, at the wooden walls and clear glass wall. “This is your clue.” I pondered for a moment, and as he handed the ticket across the table, I jumped up. “We’re going to Belgium!?”
If you are European like Mr. English, you may feel quite blase about Belgium, as I later discovered did Mr. English. But to me, who had grown up quarantined from Europe by a giant ocean, Brussels had always been my culinary epicenter. I imagined quaint little carts–the kind that used to rattle with tin cans hanging from the roofs–vending crispy, salty little frites with mayonnaise. And mountains and mountains of mussels, soaked in beer, warming up my frost nose. I thought it might be where my stomach would go to heaven.
I came up with a little list in my head of all foods Brussels: Brussels sprouts, Belgian endive, and the Belgian waffle. It was this last one by which I least expected to be impressed. I dragged Mr. English into Dandoy, the famed waffle house, and ordered one. The man behind the counter, who reminded me of the clown that pops out of the box, asked if I wanted Bruxelles or Liège. I said I didn’t know. He told me you could get the sweet Liège anywhere, but a Bruxelles waffle: only in Brussels!
It was crisp on the outside, and just airy-creamy within. Each little square on the grid was puddled in melting, collapsing icing sugar. There was a saltiness to the batter, and the sweetness you expected. And I turned to Mr. English, huffing out a puff of powdered sugar, and exclaimed, “If I were from Belgium, I would sue America for slander. How dare we call what we eat Belgian waffles?” He, of course, told me I was being very American.
I am on a waffle hunger strike from now until the next time Mr. English takes me back to Brussels. And for all of our sakes, it had better be soon.