Friday, 27 August 2010

In which I get overwrought about chicory

I haven't left the house for two days except to walk the dog, it's like some creepy social experiment. Please, someone take me out somewhere, or I'm going to have to obey M's order to visit the Plasticarium. M is obsessed with the Plasticarium, a Brussels attraction so obscure that no Belgians I have ever spoken to have heard of it.




I imagine it would be right up there with the so-discreet-as-to-be-invisible charms of the Cartoon Museum (tested, barely survived), or the Museum of Radiology (as yet untested, but who could resist?).

I have just found this list of Brussels Museums and look! There is a CHICORY MUSEUM. Do you dare me to go?

We have skirted round the issue of chicory on these pages many times. Perhaps we should delve a little deeper (look. I haven't left the house for 2 days, you aren't going to get any reports of scintillating social interaction. It's this or a photo of the dog looking mournful).

Chicory Facts*

Here's a chicory squirrel I made earlier (like, in 2008, but ssssh):



Chiceureuil

1. Belgium has a love of chicory which defies understanding. They braise it, bake it, gratin in and call bars after it . I imagine they feel about it a little like the British feel about a plain digestive biscuit, a sort of meagre but satisfying pleasure. The phlegmish for chicory is witloof. White leaf. A very literal language, phlegmish. I could probably find out why they like it so much, surely? Hang on, that's what the interwebs are for ...

No. There appears to be no good answer to this question in all the vast resources of la toile except that they "invented" it, apparently in 1830, when a peasant decided to grow his .... well, his whatever-they-had-before-they-had-modern-chicory, in a dark cellar (I have reluctantly redacted a poor taste Belgian joke here, which you may now guess). Incidentally, when you put 'pourquoi les belges' into Google and allow it to finish your sentence you get a vast sequence of Belgian jokes.

Why do Belgians, suggests Google:

- go to mass with a bucket of water?
- wear pyjamas to ride a motorbike?
- take their glasses off to get breathalysed?

Among many others. None of these jokes translates, so do not ask me the punchlines. If you speak French you can probably guess them anyway, they are all awful.

2. Chicory is the flesh eating zombie of the vegetable world; eerie and impossible to kill. It has a shelf life equivalent to the half life of a radioactive strontium B isotope. The one I used to make this penguin (today! This very morning!):




Chicgouin

had been in the fridge since 1987.

3. You may think that carving chicory is an easy and amusing activity for a housebound neurotic, but actually, it is surprisingly irritating and liable to induce feelings of worthlessness.

I call this one "Fire Tornado hits Uccle".


(it is an expression of my not-so-suppressed desire that a fire tornado indeed hit Uccle. Fire tornadoes are dominating my thoughts since B sent me this link with a suggestion we try and start one in the Parc Royale with my office fan and a large box of matches).


4. It looks very peculiar with the root on, look:

(yup, I'm struggling. Stay with me)

5. If you have lived in Belgium for long enough, you find yourself just buying them, automatically, regardless of whether you like, or eat them. I think the purchase of chicory forms part of the fiscal regime of the Belgian state. I like to think that my witloof tax is contributing to vital Belgian activities like, oh, I don't know, those public information campaigns explaining to the general public why trams are likely to kill them, or the music in the metro.


(Enough chicory facts - Ed).



*Not facts at all


24 comments:

Kitty Ballistic said...

It's called witloof here in Holland too. And it's very popular, although I don't think there's a Dutch witloof museum. That would be too exciting.

Oh, and thanks for putting chicory into my head - here, have a Seventies earworm:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXPI5drw4CA

Nicky said...

Blissfully funny, thank you

Mrs Trefusis... said...

I don't think that there's anyone on the planet, let alone in Belgium, that has a more creative approach to chicory than you. I think your art gallery friend should give you a small photographic exhibition. If David Sedaris can write a whole book about small woodland creatures, how much more interesting would it be to have a big coffee table book, in French and Flemish, with large colour plate illustrations of chicory animals? A conceptual artist is born, surely?

Invader_Stu said...

Those chicory animals are brilliant but now I can't get the image of my head of them coming to life (or living dead life) as zombie chicory animals.

Sara Padrusch said...

In America they are called endives, which one says with a sort of fake french snooty accent. I must confess that I love them, though I am disturbed by their roots which I had never considered before.

Your squirrel looks delish!

M. said...

I'm with Mrs T. I would totally buy a tirage limité print of the Chigouin.

Alison Cross said...

Waffle - if your chicory sculptures are not actually IN the Chicory Museum, it's not worth a damn.

You ARE the artistic SOUL of the witloof....

Ali x

That's Not My Age said...

I love the chicory animals - I think you should start selling them, surely there's a huge market in Belgium? Actually, maybe the coffee table book is a more sophisticated option!

Jaywalker said...

Thank you all. I will see if Gallerist Patrick is interested.

M I like chicgouin and chiceureuil is even better. I have added captions to the post.

Sara - the normal French call them endive too. But Belgium has its own special word. Chicon.

irretrievablybroken said...

Yes, over here it's endive, which I pronounce ahn-deeeve à la française, but which generally gets me a funny look and a correction ("It's END-EYVE, silly.") To be precise, we Americans call it BELGIAN endive. I find it absolutely delicious and would go to the museum in a heartbeat, hoping fervently for a witloof-themed café.

The Vegetable Assassin said...

I am ashamed to say I don't know what a) chicory tastes like, b) what to do with it, or c) what it looks like if you hadn't posted those highly informative pics. What does one use it for? I am strangely fascinated. I'm really hoping you say its main use is for carving small animals as you demonstrated. Surely people don't eat it? Maybe chew on it while sipping an ice cold Jupiler?

Kristie B said...

I've read the word chicory before and had no idea what it was.

In Canada, we call that a "Belgian Endive."

I guess it is like the whole zucchini/ courgette thing.

WrathofDawn said...

I dare you to go to the Chicory Museum. I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU.

Photos or it didn't happen!

wv - untlef - Swedish for chicory

100% FACT!!!

Maybe not.

Anonymous said...

go out and get an obscure piercing. gives you a sense of purpose, wondering round the streets and you can always take it out if you don't like it. it's a bit like sitting an exam, psyching yourself up for a test. plugging back in. plus the pain is quite fun. i recommend the tragus.

Em said...

Thanks for clearing that up. I knew nothing about chicory and know I feel I know a little too much...

Will receipes follow?

Sarah L. said...

In the southern states of America, they put the roots in coffee. Dried up and ground up, of course. I had no idea that the above ground part was actually an endive. That is of course why I come here, for all the learning that happens. ;)

Christina @ Fashion's Most Wanted said...

You are wonderful! You've made an entire post on chicory interesting, creative and extremely amusing! As let's face it, it's not the most interesting of vegetable. I'm very impressed with the squirrel and the penguin, much more fun than plasticine.

I've tagged you at mine should you wish to take part. I would love to read your answers if you do... xx

planetgermany said...

There's a pig museum in Stuttgart. Enough said.

Lisa-Marie said...

I enjoy the chicory penguin!

I have another the that you might find amusing to add

http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/

ModestyBrown said...

I have nothing constructive to add other than to say the obsession with witloof is both quite bemusing and hilarious at the same time. Loving your chicory animals!

The City Road said...

The other use for chicory, partially alluded to by Sarah L. is as a coffee substitute when the root is burnt and ground up.

I remember the horror creeping over me when reading the small print on a bottle of Camp Coffee while working my Saturday job in the early 80's (it's not a brand name you'd willing create these days, is it). More usually found with the cooking stuff these days, but back then it was alongside the Gold Blend and people bought it as a cheaper alternative to coffee powder *gag*

livesbythewoods said...

Camp Coffee! Yes! In that tall square glass bottle with the Scottish soldier and the unspecified native servant on the label.

Ah, happy memories. And by lordy it tasted vile.

Anyway. More vegetable carving please. mr WithaY and I were discussing creating something marvellous with foodstuffs just this morning, it is obviously the time of year for it.

Jeannie said...

I live on the west coast, US, and have always called it endive (ahn'-deeve). It's very expensive, too.

bonnie-ann black said...

so, am i right in assuming that the chicory you're eating and sculpting with (and which is called "endive" here in the US)is *not* the same chicory that they used to make ersatz coffee during the war?