A couple of weeks ago, I arrived in Leuven, Belgium to settle in before commencing a Master of Cultural Studies program at KU Leuven, Belgium’s oldest and largest university. Although Leuven is a relatively small town, the university culture allows for a bustling cultural scene, complete with many charming cafes and restaurants. Leuven, also boasts the title of birthplace of Stella Artois brewing.
Yes, several items of obvious popularity abound: We have beer, beer, and more beer, enough chocolate to give pause to an absolute cocoa fiend- such as myself, and so many frites-the fatty cousin of the french fry. Leuven is a place where the following sign is unironically posted on the entrance to a local shop:
I imagine the sentiment is something like: We applaud the enjoyment of snacks, but kindly finish them before entering the store. Alsjeblieft.
Upon arrival, a few surprising culinary trends became quickly apparent: Belgians adore Italian food- especially pasta. There are many quick Italian options akin to Chipotle in their set-ups, but with a choice of extra mozzerella or basil rather than guac and salsa. Stewy Flemish fare (which is basically any type of soft cooked meat with something creamy on it) is a given, along with the aforementioned frites, beer, and chocolate. We’ll save chocolate for another time. Let’s just say I am doing extensive ‘research’ at the moment.
The unexpected, however, came along with the coffee. In Leuven, far be it from anyone to serve you a coffee and expect you to suffer the duration of the drink without a snack. I am thrilled at this cultural difference. This is what I have always wanted without realizing it. You don’t ask for it. It doesn’t cost extra, nor are the prices inflated. It’s just a surprise little treat. Just for you…and everyone else. Locals are clearly unphased by this luxury, but for me, the novelty is unending. I have ordered coffee here and actually told the waiter it wasn’t my order because the little chocolate croissant which came along with it had to be a pastry that someone ordered, but no!
The “Werf koffie” pictured above, listed on the menu as just coffee, wins the title of most gratuitous coffee snack of all. I was baffled when I was given an entire thermos of coffee accompanied by a container full of chocolate biscuit sandwiches, cream, sugar, and a side of whipped cream… all for €2.60!
Me, every day now: “What’s this? What’s this? I can’t believe my eyes!”
I assumed my greatest challenge this year would be writing a Master’s thesis, but I am afraid it might be resisting the urge to eat every single thing. Follow my progress by checking in on Very Voracious, or check out my Instagram.