Sunday, September 08, 2013

Anvers

Working backwards...

Anvers being the name of Antwerp in French.  It's funny, there is a stop on the Paris Metro's Line 2 named "Anvers" and I never knew what it meant.  Once I got to Belgium, I realized and said aha!

I remain shocked at how different Flanders is from Walloon.  Flanders feels very much like the Netherlands compared to Walloon's French feel.  Such an amazing notion that such different regions can live together in the same country.  Although given that Belgium had the ignominy of breaking the record for the longest period without a government. 589 days without a government! That almost doubled the previous record-holder, Iraq.

I was able to crash on Philippe’s business partner Alejandro’s couch at his apartment near Bar Buenos Aires.  The next day I sat out mostly at the café, working to catch up on the blog.  I also got to sample the wares of Bar Buenos Aires: the empanada.  And I was utterly impressed. 

Bar Buenos Aires’ empanadas were incredibly, incredibly good.  Better in fact than many of the empanadas I ate in Argentina.  While living in Buenos Aires, I was an empanada connoisseur, always searching out the best ones.  My favorite was La Panamericana—La Reina de la Empanada near Congresso.  I dare say Philippe’s version match those delights.

Philippe uses a lighter dough that is a little more pastry-like.  The empanada de carne was immaculate.  It was flavorful, with all of the proper goodies of a proper empanada including hard-boiled egg and olives.  The carne mix was the perfect consistency and flavor.  He covers the empanadas with some black seeds, something not often done in Argentine empanadas, but a nice addition to give the slightest little crunch to the soft Argentine delight.  And Philippe serves the empanadas with a homemade salsa that was wonderful.  Kind-of a mix between Belgian and Argentine flavors with tomatoes, onions, garlic and cilantro. 

I also got to try a empanada de pollo.  I had found that these sometimes were a bit dry in Argentina, but Philippe’s was perfect.  It was juicy and oozed flavor.  He also served this with the homemade salsa, and it was delicious as well. 

I am utterly impressed by Philippe’s work with the bar.  So much so, I plan to include this little outpost of Argentine culture in a forthcoming op-ed on Argentine gastrodiplomacy.

In the afternoon, I went wandering around the beautiful city of Antwerp near the gorgeous Stadhuis and huge gothic church.  I found a little place that had the beginnings of an exhibition on Antwerp  during the Great War.  Antwerp had an influx of refugees, because many Belgians thought it was a safer city—only for the fighting to hit this Flemmish capital.  The guide explained about a pontoon bridge that was built across the Schelde River to help the citizens escape the fighting in the city.  There was a picture of the people fleeing across the river.  She told me that there are plans to build a new peace bridge to memorialize the flight.


 I wandered in and out of alleys, and over to the cathedral.  I got a Westmalle Duble and sat on a fountain reading The Last Temptation.  A tour group came by, and the tour guide explained to the group that the fountain I was sitting on was dedicated to a metal smith-turned-painter.  This talented metal smith fellow was in love with a girl, but her father—a painter, objected because he considered the smith below his daughter, and wanted her to marry a painter.  So the smithy decided that he had to learn to paint.  He went to Italy to learn from the masters, and became a wiz.  He returned, and snuck into the girl’s home.  The painter father had a giant canvas in his living room that he had painted.  The smith painted a delicate little fly onto the picture.  When the father found the fly, he thought it was real—only to discover it was painted on.  He was so impressed with the artistic work, he said that whoever drew that could marry his daughter.  And thus the smith-turned-painter was united with his love.


I already shared my erev Rosh Hashana story, and the apples and honey to sweeten the year that got off to a sour start.

The next day, Philipe let me borrow his shared-bike card.  I headed over to the house/studio of Peter Paul Rubens.

Rubens had a palatial home that looked like an Italian-style mansion.  I wandered through the old house, taking in the still life paintings of fruits and game (not from Rubens) and the old artifacts while learning about the master in his lair.  Rubens was a prolific painter...he had his students paint many works credited to him, and only put on the finishing touches.  But there were still quite a number of Rubens' own, as well as from his protege Anthony van Dyck.  The thing that impressed me was seeing in Rubens' work, the influence that would affect later artists like El Greco.

And I saw a painting that made smile without compare:



That would be Moses and his Black wife Tziporah!  Fuck you racist asshole I met the previous day.  Our beloved patriarch Moses loved his Nubian queen. Thus beginning a long tradition of Jewish boys loving Black girls...

I sat out in the gardens of Rubens house, thinking about Rosh Hashana, and offering my own prayers to the wind.

I headed out to grab some lunch at a nice cafe near the GroteMarket.  I had a delicious open-faced sandwich of grilled eggplant, zucchini and peppers with grilled feta cubes over a toasted roll slathered in pesto.  I sipped a Karmelit Tripel, of golden ambrosia color.

In the afternoon, I biked over to the Central Station, which is considered one of the most beautiful train stations in the world.  It is.

I hung around the area, taking pictures of people in the sun's afternoon light, before heading back up to Bar Buenos Aires to grab my stuff before hopping a train on to Ghent.

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