11 March 2015
Frituur René, pronounced with the guttural Brussels’ idiome you would expect in a bistrot in the heart of Anderlecht. It could be an alternative setting for an episode of ‘Allo-Allo’ and I could hear you tell me: “Listen carefully, I will zay this only onze!”
Spring gives its best early efforts, with streaks of blue and smudges of orange dotting the evening sky, with youngsters noisily showing off on the square, with a Pakistani hawker trying to sell us a rose (no, don’t get closer, she’s allergic to flowers! He doesn’t believe me, but scurries off just the same.)
I’ll buy you flowers, dear, but on my terms, not his.
We get a window table, and the smoky campfire fumes from the outside woodburner tickles our nostrils. Vera is thrown into a timewarp, back to her grandma’s farmhouse, where again she warms her feet to the kitchen stove while grandma stirs the pot of potato peels. Potato peels for the pigs, and hot creamy buttermilk pudding for the kids. The experience is so powerful she swears she can right here, right now, smell that steamy broth damping into the cold winter morning in her granny’s kitchen.
So too the shrimp croquettes and the sole-meuniere, served bistrot style, with a glass of deliciously sweet white wine.
But what is really to die for, are the french fries with freshly whipped mayonaise. I know, it doesn’t come more Belgian than that, but then again, Belgians we are. These days, fries all taste and look the same, even in ‘Belgique’. Many restaurants serve them like if they all came straight from a a Mc Do from around the corner. Thinly frenched, unisize and unitaste matchsticks. (Ah, you thought “french fries” had to do with ‘France’ the country? Burst that bubble, the name comes from the verb ‘to french’ i.e. ‘to slice up’ and there ain’t much French about the the whole affair.)
René’s fries: another time-warp. Back to the ox-fat kettle, to when and where fries took up the distinct flavor of the fat, but still kept the taste of the potatoes too.
Vera reminisces about her time on the family farm. I heard it all a hundred times over, but still have to smile, and laugh out loud when I see her in my mind’s eye, a little girl clinging on to the steering wheel while her aunt screams to her sons: ” There’s a tractor on the loose! It’s hurtling down into the yard with no-one on it!”
Memories like priceless gems. Vera keeps them for special occasions, but when she opens that box, she wears them proud. And then her eyes sparkle like sapphires, and then her cheeks glow up into a ruby blush. And then again, I see that girl I know so well.
Cudo’s to Frituur René. A gem in Anderlecht.