Land of the …Flems?

Quick, complete this sentence: Thanks, Belgium, for all the…”

Made you think, didn’t it? If you came up with anything more than “waffles,” I guess you get a prize (even if you’re still holding those sprouts against its capital). Me, too. But now that I live in a thriving multi-ethnic metropolis, I can say I’m a little more savvy.

Let me back up — we went out Saturday night with John and Mary C. John’s a longtime occasional reader of NN.C, and recently checked back in after a long absence to discover we’d moved. Turns out he lives in the Pointes. Small world. Anyway, he and Mary took us out on a grownup’s Saturday night in the eastern suburbs — dinner at Steve’s Back Room, then a nightcap at the Cadieux Cafe, a true east-side landmark and a Belgian hangout.

Really. Hang around there, you learn about buffalo and walloons, but mostly the odd sport of featherbowling. The Cadieux Cafe claims to offer the U.S.’s only featherbowling venue, and I believe it. How this hasn’t ended up in an Elmore Leonard novel by now, I don’t know. A cross between bocce and shuffleboard and maybe horseshoes, it’s played in a concave lane of packed dirt, the object being to roll a flat-sided ball (think of a wheel of cheese) down the lane and land it as close as possible to a pigeon feather stuck at the other end. Close calls are settled with a measuring stick.

John plays in a league. He explained some of the game’s unique challenges, among them where to find replacement balls for a sport that’s so obscure as to redefine the word. They’ll have to have them custom-made. (The good news: the current set has been going strong for 70 years.) Then we watched for a while. The ball doesn’t roll straight; it makes a sine wave down the alley, wandering up and down the banked sides as it approaches the feather. It’s goofy, in an elegant way, and goes well with beer (Belgian, of course; we had Chimay).

John said sometimes the regulars ask, “Oh, you’re from Chicago? Where do the Belgians live in Chicago?” The answer to which must be, “Ummm…”

Anyway, it was a lovely evening. That it’s the only evening we’ve had out in weeks and weeks didn’t hurt.

Bloggage: My opinion of Halle Berry just rose tenfold.

Tomorrow, let’s dish the Oscars.

Posted at 8:26 pm in Uncategorized |

5 responses to “Land of the …Flems?”

  1. ashley said on February 28, 2005 at 12:31 am

    Lambics. Thanks for the lambics. My favorite being delirium tremens.

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  2. James said on February 28, 2005 at 7:33 am

    My favorite, uh, let’s call it a joke for lack of a better term, about Belgium is:

    What’s an example of Flemish cooking?

    Spit-fried chicken…

    Well… it’s a work in progress…

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  3. Jim said on February 28, 2005 at 11:08 am

    Thank God, proof of feather bowling. I visited he establishment years ago while visiting a friend in Detroit. It was a league night, so we couldn’t play, but we sat on the benches at the side and provided play by play. Whenever I describe the game to people, they think I’m making it up. Why hasn’t this been franchised?

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  4. mary said on February 28, 2005 at 12:33 pm

    Belgian chocolate is probably the best in the world (Callebaut, Leonidas to name two) and the Belgians did invent what we call French Fries. The frites or frits in Belgium are on some other culinary cosmic plane than McDonalds, though. Flemish painters aren’t too shabby either. Then there’s the Singing Nun and Jacques Brel, and the poppies growing in Flanders fields.

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  5. James said on March 1, 2005 at 8:11 am

    Oh… I just thought of a most excellent Flemish export: Tintin.

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