We spent last weekend celebrating the birthday of my friend and colleague Jo (Pronounced Yo) in a small town just west of Brussels in Belgium. Yo has reached the grand old age of X (where X is a whole number between 49 and 51…). His wife and two sons had arranged a surprise cooking course for Yo and friends. So we arrived to meet about 20 of Yo and his wife’s friends and relations at a cookery shop that opened out into a proper restaurant kitchen at the back of the shop. We had about 20 minutes chatting with the friends all of whom are at least bi-lingual in English and Flemish (and often French and German too), and explaining who we were and how we know Yo and Chantal. They were all extremely pleasant and immediately made us feel welcome into what could have been a stressful time. The glasses of champagne might have helped, after all after 2 glasses we feel we can speak any language….
Finally the birthday boy arrived and was utterly astonished to see all of his friends attending, and even more surprised to see the two of us since the last time he saw us, we were in our Paris apartment. After that, the evening started to get under way and we were all issued with aprons and the evening was explained to us by the head cook….in Flemish…..I managed to get the gist of it but the cook then switched seamlessly into English to give us our own version. So everyone was given a task to cut or chop or mix something for our evening meal. I was in charge of the chocolate puddings so melting the butter and the chocolate together and then being assisted in folding in a well beaten mixture of flour, eggs and sugar – What danger of heart failure?
Others were doing the rest of the meal, Jo had a cauliflower to be finely chopped to form a mousse which was then incorporated into some part of the meal. Mind you, there was more chat being done than chopping….even a high risk of the cauli going off before it was prepared!
Finally we all sat down to our entrée and had the most delicious fish on a risotto base followed by veal with a pasta and a tomato sauce and finished by the piece de la résistance of my chocolate puddings which were still molten in the centres…YUM!
Our hotel was a short walk away so a simple task to get back.
The following day we went to Brussels and Jo got the potted tour of the city – the Grande Place,
rue de Bouchiers and the Royal (?) Arcade were we ogled over the chocolate shops (after the previous night you might have thought we had overdosed on the stuff but…). Jo checked out all of the lace shops too and bought a tiny lace brooch for my niece – well spotted!
After all that fun, it was time for a swift drive back down the road just in time to hit the Sunday evening rush back into Paris. All in all, a very unusual weekend. If someone had told me this time last year that we would be sharing in a cookery course and being instructed in a mixture of English, French, Flemish and German whilst cooking our own dinner then I think I might have disbelieved them.