A couple of weeks after turning in my thesis, I needed to head to Brussels to defend it. After a lot of preparation to be able to present and answer any questions they may possibly have – it’s over! I’m finished! No more classes, no more papers, no more exams, done!
A couple of weeks ago, Claire and I explored a bit of Brussels before class. We wandered the city discovering the Mont des arts, Magritte Museum, Parc de Bruxelles, and the Royal Palace. It’s shame we couldn’t take photos inside the museum! I’m a big fan of Magritte and it was so inspiring to see the world’s largest collection of his works. Because we started with his earliest paintings, it was evident how his work evolved. Before visiting the museum, I was only familiar with his most famous paintings and signature style. But it turns out he was always experimenting. There was an entire room with paintings from his Renoir Period! If you are in Brussels, you must visit the Magritte Museum!
This summer I’ve been taking classes in Brussels, so I took the opportunity to do a bit of exploring. I had already been to Brussels a few times, but always to the Historic Center and other touristy places. I had heard about Matongé from a colleague and was curious to check it out! Luckily a classmate, Samy, was free after class to show me around – and thought it was funny I wanted to go and take photos. I especially wanted to get plantains, okra, and habanero peppers, because they’re difficult to find in Antwerp. Fresh produce was available in abundance with little markets located throughout Matongé! I bought some Congolese food to-go to try the next day.
With my plantains, okra, and peppers I made Quimbombó con Carne de Puerco y Bolitas de Plátano – okra stew with pork and plantain dumplings. It’s a Cuban dish with a heavy African influence. It’s a bit like gumbo. If you say “King Gumbo” really quickly you get the idea. Everything turned out really well except for my plantain dumplings. They didn’t stay in their form. If I make this again, I will just fry them rather than mashing them and making balls.
I have fond memories of my Grandpa’s fried okra, and as a Southern girl, the only way I wanted to prepare my okra was to fry it! So tonight I made a Southern dinner for Koen and me: BBQ porkchops, fried okra, and mashed potatoes. I also feel it’s worth noting that I used American barbeque sauce (Sticky Fingers’ Habanero Hot, my favorite, that my mother brought me in April). If you buy barbeque sauce here, whether as a sauce or even as a chip flavor, it tastes completely different – and to me, not nearly as delicious!