Some chocolate facts

My uncle-in-law from Chicago, Illinois is here in Belgium now. He is not a novice when it comes to Europe. He lived in The Netherlands for couple years and he toured all over Europe due to his work purpose for the past few decades. We went to Brussels city center in Grand Place past weekend and took him to “Museum of Cocoa and Chocolates” which was our first time too. After all, you can’t leave Belgium without knowing the history of chocolate and why it’s so popular in Belgium, right?

It’s a cozy museum with few levels to explore. We saw man demonstrating how chocolate shells are made with different types of fillings and making of variety shapes of chocolates that we see in the stores beginning of the tour. At the end of the demonstration we got a chance to actually taste some of those heavenly dark chocolates with chocolate ganache inside.

It was a fun and educational museum for all of us. I wanted to share some facts on chocolates, especially Belgian chocolates from that museum.

1) Thousands of years ago, Mayas and Aztecs were first to cultivate cocoa trees in Central and South America.

2) For Europeans, the history of cocoa begins in 1502, the fourth voyage of Christopher Columbus to America.

3) First trace of chocolate in Belgium dates back to 1635 in the City of Gent.

4) In 1912, Jean Neuhaus (alchemist) invented first bite sized filled chocolate, named pralines.

5) Europe alone consumes 50% of all chocolate production.

6) Ivory Coast is the number one cocoa producing country.

7) Belgian chocolate uses 100% cocoa butter, instead of vegetable fats. That’s why the quality of Belgian chocolate is appreciated through the world.

8) Cocoa contains components that stimulate both mind and body.

9) 30 grams of dark chocolates bring 22% of daily intake recommended magnesium for an adult and 23% of iron.

10) The fruit of the cocoa tree is called “Pod” and this pod-like fruit contains 30 – 40 beans embedded in a pulp.

11) Chocolate is delivered in 3 forms: drops or “callets”, 5 kilos tablets, and liquid.

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10 Fun Facts About Belgium

Belgium is a tiny country in Europe compare to some other big ones like Spain, Italy, Germany, France, U.K. But despite it’s size, this place has many things to offer including waffles, chocolates, diamonds, french fries, and many more countless things. No wonder this country is known as the “Essence of Europe“. I came across these facts on Belgium here and there. Most of them I experienced after being here for a while but some other facts I collected from various different places. eNjOy …

1) A country without Government: Yep, it is scary, but Belgium had no official government for close to 2 years now. No worries, everything is working just fine. The country is being run by a caretaker government.

2)Belgian Chocolates: Belgium produces around 220,000 tonnes of chocolate every year. That means, 22 kg of chocolate is consumed per person per year or 61 grams per day on an average. The world’s biggest chocolate selling point is Brussels National Airport (aha, not any Swiss airports. What does that tell you?)

3) The diamond capital: The world’s main diamond center and second largest petrochemical center is in Belgium. Almost 90% of raw diamonds in the world are negotiated, polished, and distributed in Antwerp, Belgium.

4) 3 official languages: Belgium has 3 official languages. Majority people speak Flemish, which is a local dialect of Dutch, then French is the 2nd most popular, finally very small percent of Belgians (may be 1%) speak German. Luckily, most of the locals can speak Flemish and French very well along with English in cities like Brussels, Brugges, Gent or Antwerpen…good for the expats.

5) Education Law: Education is compulsory in Belgium upto the age of 18, which is the highest in the world.

6) Heart of Europe: Brussels is not only the capital of Belgium, but also the capital of European Union (EU) and houses the headquarter of NATO. That’s why Brussels is called the “Heart of Europe”.

7) Royal Palace of Brussels: The Royal Palace of Brussels is 50% longer than Buckingham Palace.

8) Quality of Education: A 2007 UNICEF report on child well-being in rich countries ranked Belgium as the best country for children’s education well-being.

9) Belgian Frites: Belgians should be given credit for their “French Fries“. It wasn’t France who came up with fries at the first place. Foreign soldiers in Belgium saw French speaking people eating/serving fries (“frites” is what we call here) and that’s where the “French Fries” name came from. Oh, one more thing, in Belgium fries are eaten with mayonnaise, not ketchup, which actually tastes wayyy better.

10) Belgian Waffles: There are 3 main sorts of Belgian waffles: Liege waffles, the most common ones and are eaten more like cookies, have small bites of sugar cyrtals in them. Brussels waffles, my favorite ones, are usually bigger, lighter, rectangular, and eaten with various toppings like fruits, ice cream, nutella. Galettes, haven’t tried this yet, are thinner, softer, and typically eaten for breakfast, sometimes with jam.

Along with the above facts, a Belgian – Adolphe Sax invented saxophone, the first printed newspaper was published in 1605 in Belgium, oil painting was invented here in the 15th century. One more thing I have to mention is that Belgium produces the highest number of comic books in the world (even more than Japan). Belgians are so crazy about comics books that the even have a museum dedicated to those comic lovers. One of the most famous comic hero is Tintin (remember him?), who was a Belgian…

Friday Market in Tervuren, Belgium

I love going to farmers’ market. When we used to live in Buffalo, NY, there was a farmers‘ market every saturday morning near an old church. I remember driving 10 minutes to go there and buying fresh vegetables, fruits, cheese, bakery, and lots of other good stuff. I didn’t get that in Portland. There were lots of farmers’ market where we lived but nothing really close-by nor their prices were cheap.

After moving to Tervuren, I finally found a market that is very cozy, diverse, full of friendly people, offers great price, and has variety of items. There is a lively, outdoor market every Friday in Tervuren village center. It’s open every Friday around the year from 9 am -12 pm. I have been there couple times and I am making a habit to go there every Friday and do my weekly grocery from there. I saw Dutch, French, English, German…people from everywhere in this market. Some of the vendors here are permanent while others come once or twice a month.

You can find fresh fish, fresh meat, cooked meat, fruits, vegetables, cheese, egg, fresh oven-baked breads (many different kinds), sweets, chocolates, candies there. On the other side, you can also find household items, clothes, jeans, socks, sleepwears, purses, wallets, and many more items here. And the price is unbelievably reasonable.

There are lots of other stores along the street selling interesting and fun items. Everytime I go to the Friday market, I make sure that I go to my favorite pastry shop, where I can pick up some waffles, pastries, chocolates, and fresh baked goods for the family. I don’t have a sweet tooth, but its hard to resist the mouth watering delights in that bakert. I look forward to go to this patisserie every week.

The thing that I mostly enjoy when I come to this Friday market is that there are lots of elder ladies who come for their groceries too. They bring their large trolley bags, do their weekly shopping/grocery. Then they stop at the nearby cafe/pastry shop with their girl friends for some coffee or treats. I hear them talking in Dutch or French, laughing there lungs outs, enjoying the weather, sipping their coffee/tea. I leave when my work is done there, may be go to couple shops on my way to the car. But these ladies may sit there for hours. Then when they are done chatting, they will just pay the bill and go to another restaurant for lunch. So beautiful … wish when I age I can have a similar environment to go to relax and sip my cup of tea with a piece of dark chocolate. You don’t need a perfect place to have good time, just need to enjoy little things in life that can give you some perfect moments.

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