‘Happiness Is German Engineering, Italian Cooking And Belgian Chocolate.’
– Patricia Briggs
This past weekend I discovered the truth of this quote for myself. Unfortunately for Patricia Briggs, she left out the part about happiness also being Belgian waffles and Tintin comics!
During their weekly market on Saturday, Vergenoegd Wine Estate just outside of Stellenbosch hosted a fun (and delicious!) Belgian festival. It was an incredible event! Think handmade chocolates, craft beer, Tintin, traditional Belgian pastries… and, of course, waffles!!!!
I’ve never given the nation of Belgium much thought before this weekend, but after learning more about this nation, its history and culture, and its culinary delights, I’m a convert, so to speak!
Vergenoegd Wine Estate is already renowned for its Saturday market and live events. But this Belgian theme made last weekend’s market extra yummy! And I’m not just talking about the food!
Many of the stalls were managed by native Belgians who were more than eager to tell curious, little, camera-toting critters like myself all about their country and to show off their traditional foods. There were a lot of free samples visitors could taste and after having a taste of these bite-sized treasures, I struggled not to blow my budget!
One of the first Belgians I spoke with was a representative from the Belgian Consulate in Cape Town. And as you might have guessed, I immediately asked him if there were Tintin t-shirts for sale like the one he had on! Unfortunately for me, the answer was no. But he quickly cheered me up with fun facts about his nation!
For example, did you know that Hollywood-legend Audrey Hepburn was born in Belgium? It’s true! Belgium also gave us Brussel Sprouts, Tintin, the saxophone, body mass index (BMI) and the Smurfs! Belgians are also credited with inventing oil painting!
It’s reported that Belgium makes over 800 different beers – definitely a place to go and braai! But if you’re tastes run to something sweeter, put on your fat pants and get ready for your next holiday because Belgium over 220 000 tons of chocolate per year.
Interestingly enough, the MacDonalds’ franchise hasn’t had much success in Belgium, with there being 7 times fewer MacD’s restaurants in Belgium than in the USA.
‘I Know You’re Belgian, That’s Where Those Waffles Come From.’
– Alan Sugar
Belgians are also some of the most liberal thinkers in the world. Gay marriages were legalised in 2003 and euthanasia in 2002. A 2007 European Report also pointed out that Belgium has the lowest salary gap between men and women (after Malta) and the highest proportion of female ministers in the world (55% in the year 2000). Belgium was also one of the first countries to have a female parliamentarian in 1921. You go, girls!
Belgium has also been a temporary home to Carl Marx, the father of communism, while he was in exile. Victor Hugo, another exile, also completed his exceptional masterpiece Les Misérables while visiting Waterloo, south of Brussels, in 1871 (yes, the Waterloo in Belgium is the original one!). And although Holland springs to mind when one thinks of tulips, the bulbs first arrived in Antwerp in 1562. It was also in Belgium’s Waterloo that Napolean finally got his come-uppance!
Belgium dates back to the Middle Ages and has some of the oldest places in the world: la Redoute (Europe’s first casino), Galleries St Hubert (Europe’s oldest shopping arcade) and Thermes De Spa (Europe’s first modern health resort). The world’s first recorded lottery also took place in Belgium to raise money for the poor. So the next time you go shopping, get a facial, play the lotto or enjoy a night out at the casino, remember… you have Belgium to thank for it!
Belgium also has some of the largest structures in the world: the Law Court of Brussels (the largest court of justice), the Belgian coast tram (the longest tramway line), and Nemo33 (the deepest swimming pool in the world). Belgian’s National Day falls on 21 July every year, in commemoration of King Leopold I taking the constitutional oath and becoming the first King of the Belgians. The current sovereign of Belgium is King Philippe.
And with that background… let’s get to the tasty stuff!
The highlight of this festival – apart from the cultural twist – was without a doubt the Belgian waffles! The waffles were freshly made on the spot by the local Wicked Waffle catering business. And trust when I say that they know their stuff! By lunchtime there were easily more than 50 people standing in the cue to get a whiff of these Belgian treats.
I myself purchased 2 waffles – one for myself and one for my mother who had kindly agreed to play chauffeur for me and my friend on Saturday. Mum had the American Style waffle, topped with vanilla ice-cream and syrup, whereas I enjoyed the Lady In Heaven waffle, with a seductive topping of Belgian melted chocolate, strawberries and cream. If you desire a bite of this heavenly dessert for yourself, be sure to visit Wicked Waffle’s website! They supply restaurants and also cater to private functions, markets and festivals.
‘We Need To Remember What’s Important In Life: Friends, Waffles, Work. Or Waffles, Friends, Work, It Doesn’t Matter. But Work Is Third.’
– Amy Phoeler
Historically speaking, there are 3 different types of waffles – or ‘grote wafels’ – featured in old Belgian cookbooks dating all the way back to 1634. Waffles are also recorded in German, French and British cookbooks. While it is therefore uncertain exactly when and where waffles originate, some of the earliest depictions of waffles are fount in a 1450-1516 painting by Hieronymus Bosch and a painting by Pieter Bruegel in 1559.
Belgian waffles were initially sold during the Middle Ages as unleavened crisp cakes that were baked in a wafer-iron on an open fire. The first gas waffle machine appeared in around 1885, while the first electrical waffle iron didn’t wasn’t invented until 1911.
Today there are more than 20 different variations of the Belgian waffle, with the most popular being the Liege and Brussels waffle.
Fortunately for me, this festival fell on the day before I officially embarked on my 52 kg journey, so I didn’t begrudge myself this waffled slice of heaven! While I’m gluten intolerant and suffered for it later, this was definitely worth the tummy ache!
‘It’s A Belgium Beer, Sweetie.
Please Tell Me You’ve At Least Heard Of It.’
– Sherrilyn Kenyon
Since the Belgian population is mainly made up of French, German, Dutch and Flemish speakers, this diverse cultural heritage is reflected in their food. Other delicacies featured at the festival were therefore:
- rijtspap (rice pudding)
- Antwerps appelbrood (Antwerp apple pie)
- sugar waffles
- mattentaart (a type of ‘curd cake’)
- pithivier (a tart with a rich, almond filling)
- konfituurtaart (a tart made from puff pastry and jam)
- kriekentaart (a tart layered with custard and cherry filling)
Feast your eyes and salivate over these tasty desserts featured in the slideshow below!
Most of the pastries featured in the above-slideshow were catered by the Flemish Pajot Bakery, while the rest were crafted by Cédric French Pastry. As a broke BA student for the foreseeable future, I myself was not able to purchase and taste each and one of these desserts, but I definitely plan on doing so in the future! Keep an eye out on my newest recipes… I guarantee you’ll soon see a kriekentaart making the rounds! The award-winning French pastry chef also caters for private functions and events, so be sure to visit his website and check out the Galette de Rois!
‘Belgium Is A Country Invented By The British To Annoy The French.’
– Charles De Gaulle
Although the biggest part of the market was allocated to stalls and tables celebrating the Belgian festival, there were still the ‘local yocals’ who are a regular presence at the Vergenoegd Saturday market.
While I was unable to photograph everything due to the traffic at the stalls, I did my best to capture as many stalls as I could. There was a wide variety of craftsmen and entrepreneurs – from woodworkers and jewellers to leather crafters and t-shirt manufacturers! Cape Sculpture Technologies even showcased personalised sculptures! All of them are locals and have a most distinctive South African feel to their products.
What really surprised me about this market, apart from the diversity and uniqueness of the products featured, was the affordability of it all. Some of the shoes pictured in the slideshow above sold for R120 a pair, while the distinctly-Afrikaans t-shirts from Malboer.com T-hemde were priced for R250. These t-shirts especially are something one won’t find in the usual tourist shops, and yet they are more culturally applicable then some of the generic stuff one usually sees in curio shops in Cape Town.
If you’re visiting away from home, be sure to take some time to explore the Vergenoegd market on a Saturday and purchase one of these one-of-a-kind South African t-shirts! Another great find was the homemade jewellery and beaded crafts of Reneé Hopkins from Moon Shadow Artistry. I’ve already made my Christmas picks from her gorgeous clothing and accessories straight from India and Thailand! Be sure to check out her webpage, Instagram account and Facebook page for some remarkable accessories!
As if the feast of Belgian delicacies weren’t tempting enough, other stalls frequently present at the Vergenoegd market were Corlie’s Italian, Salty Flames Smoked (who had some delicious chutneys and smoked cheeses that will soon end up in my belly!), Sweet Petals with their array of baked goods and selection of marmellata, and, of course, Hashtag Rollin’s ice-cream rolls!
And if the wide assortment of food and beverages available at the stalls and tables didn’t make you drool (impossible!), the estate’s own restaurant, A Taste of Vergenoegd, certainly will!
As you can see from the pictures in the slideshow above, there were also more traditional African crafts to be found at the market. Some of the craftsmen even continued working on future projects while tending their stalls. Witnessing the hundreds of tiny stitches, bead and fine work going into these crafts only make you appreciate their beauty even more! My favourite was the small sculpture of the two meerkats kissing. See if you can spot it!
‘Belgium – A Country Invented So That Britain And Germany Can Sort Out Their Differences.’
– James May
The Township Animal Rescue also put in an appearance with many young ones (and even a few adults like myself) being completely entranced by the furry little felines up for adoption. They too sold a few items in an attempt to raise funds for the shelter, while trying to find happy homes for these cuddly balls of fluff. Unfortunately, I already have two cats at home, but if you’re looking for a new pet, give them a call! They welcome donations and volunteers!
Officials from the City of Cape Town also put in an appearance to help raise awareness about saving water. They gave very useful practical demonstrations showing how new types of taps and showerheads can help us make a huge difference in our water usage. They also handed out pamphlets, brochures and other informative pages detailing how we can help rescue the Cape from having to dry up completely! Don’t hesitate to get all this information from their website! Save and make a difference!
All in all the festival and market was really enjoyable! There was live music, as well as haystacks, chairs and tables underneath shaded trees where visitors could kick back and enjoy their food purchases. The restrooms were clean and tidy. The staff were very welcoming and friendly, standing ready to assist in any way they can. Surrounded by the Winelands and the mountains, the atmosphere was amazing!
Unlike certain markets that have become hubs of hustling-and-bustling, Vergenoegd’s market has a laid-back, casual atmosphere where visitors are able to take their time soaking everything in and catch their breath from the big city.
‘In Belgium, The Magistrate Has The Dignity Of A Prince, But By Bacchus, It Is True That The Brewer Is King.’
– Emile Verhaeren
Both entrance and parking is free and the prices at the food stalls are reasonable and budget-friendly. Some of the stalls have card machines, but not all of them. Pets are welcome, provided that they do not bother the other visitors and are preferred leashed. For parents hoping to rest and relax a bit, there is a great big jungle gym, jumping castle and playground for the kids, with arts and crafts available. Children can also enjoy Vergenoegd’s duck parade and look on as this farm’s pride waddles past while greeting visitors cheerfully on their rounds.
Apart from their Saturday market, Vergenoegd also offers wine tastings, picnics, blending experiences, tours, family runs and live shows. Weddings and kids parties can also be arranged. Be sure to check out their website for more information!
‘I’m Half-Irish, Half-Dutch And I Was Born In Belgium. If I Was A Dog, I’d Be A Hell Of A Mess.’
– Audrey Hepburn
So far, I’ve only experienced Vergenoegd’s Saturday market, having arrived too late for the duck parade. I definitely intend on going back to this historic estate and experiencing more of what they have to offer. On my next outing there, I hope to participate in their 3 km walk, witness the duck parade and maybe even enjoy a picnic or blending experience!
Otherwise… there are still a lot of foods at their Saturday market I have yet to sample!
I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I did taking them! I would not have been able to write this post without the assistance of Roné, my sister-from-another-mister (as she has often referred to herself). Love you lots, Gogga! While this post focused more on the Belgian festival, I hope to write a more-focused piece on Vergenoegd Wine Estate soon.
‘Life Is A Muddle. Friendship Is What Sorts It Out.’
– Belgian Proverb
But until then, don’t hesitate to grab your friends, grab your kids, grab your dog, your camera and some cash and have an awesome outing at Vergenoegd! After the first visit, you’ll be hooked! Believe me! Xx
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