When we think of "hot chips", most of the English-speaking among us think of the name "French fries", and we thus believe that the world's favourite cooked potato snack originated in France. This, however, is wrong. Legend has it that back in WWII, when the American troops were fighting in Europe, they sampled the dish for the first time, and liked it so much that they took it home with them. But so bad was their knowledge of European geography, that they thought they were down in France — when in fact they were fighting in Belgium! Having now been to Belgium, I now know that the true name of the dish is "Belgian fries". And what's more, nobody cooks up a better plate of fries than do the Belgians.
On the way back from our afternoon in Antwerp, this evening Stef, Annick, Karlijn and I stopped in at a ten-pin bowling alley not far from Turnhout. We were hoping to begin our Saturday night festivities by knocking down a few pins, and Karlijn was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, when we reached the place, we found it to be completely booked-out in advance, all evening until 11pm. Talk about a popular pastime: those Belgians must really love their bowling (or maybe they just have nothing else to do, on a rainy Saturday night in December). That was a real pity: I haven't been bowling for ages, and I was quite up for a game or two; plus, that was Karlijn's main entertainment ruled out for the night.
Anyway, not far from the bowling alley we found a great "frituur", which is a unique Belgian establishment that specialises in (as its name suggests) fried food. In particular, they do fried chips (the famous Belgian fries), as well as various types of fried meat, sausage and fish. The frituur is a funny place: it's fast food, but they're all individually-run mum-and-dad affairs; and it's immensely popular, with people queueing up and waiting for up to ½ an hour while they give their order and have it cooked on-the-spot. The crowd of patrons is incredibly well-organised: each person takes a ticket and waits their turn; and when their turn arrives, each person briskly walks to the counter, recites their order, and then retreats and waits for it to get fried up. Reminds me a bit of the restaurant quirkiness from the famous Seinfeld episode: "The Soup Nazi".
The four of us — after strictly adhering to the proper ordering procedure — had a delicious dinner at the frituur tonight: all of us ordered a full individual serving of fries, along with the sausage of our choosing. Stef and I went for the "currywurst", a delicious chopped-up sausage served with ketchup and curry powder. The fries were about the best I've ever had — they certainly s#%? on Maccas French fries — and they went great with the mustard that I ordered on-the-side. Having now had beer, fries, chocolate and waffles, I'm starting to feel like a true-blue Belgian myself: and I've only been in the country for one day!