We were on the way from Central Holland to Central France and stopped in here in Belgium. Wallonia in fact which is the southern and French-speaking part.
Why time for a feast? Well, we’d had a few years on a limited menu in Holland. This was partly because Dutch food is ‘uncomplicated’ and partly because we didn’t speak the language. Ordering anything apart from the staples was either down to pointing, visual recognition or the vendor speaking English. We’d tried one or two adventurous purchases but they’d ended up either in the store cupboard because we were too cowardly to eat them, or in the canal.
So, here in Namur was a magnificent market. It looked like we imagined a French market to look. Stalls galore offered an abundance of animal, vegetable and mineral. Fabulous cheese and fruit and delis with pate’s, terrines, cooked meats to die for. The Belgians, like the French are obviously great eaters. Or at least great providers. At a deli I spotted some tongue, one of my favourites on buttered brown bread with a hint of mint sauce. Got it back and it tasted great. Then a chap told me it was actually pâté de tête. I looked at him. He looked at me. ‘Well?’ I said. ‘What’s that?’ He explained it was the soft bits from a pigs head boiled, rolled and pressed. ‘In jelly,’ he added. With a smirk.
The Belgians it seems, like their Gallic neighbours, don’t like waste. Anyway the stuff tasted delicious. The fact that it was a blunder of procurement is incidental. Just because I’d mistaken it for something edible didn’t mean I couldn’t (pretend to) enjoy it! I rounded my lunch off with something I recognized. A glass of red and a wodge of Brie.
We are on the River Meuse and it continues into France. We’d been on here for over 2 weeks battling the current which at times was quite strong. In fact we stopped for a few days for the flow to ease. We joined the river near Nijmegen in Holland where it is called the River Mass. Here in Namur the Rivers Sambre and Meuse meet. The Sambre heads west towards Charleroi through lands that were enormously wealthy in times past due to their coal and steel industries. In fact in the 19th Century Wallonia was second only to the United Kingdom as an industrial power in proportion to it’s poplulation and territory. So impressed with this fact are we that we ignore the Sambre and continue south on the Meuse towards France. And more food.