I really enjoy cooking. An embarrassingly large amount of my free time is spent scouring the internet for new recipes to test. I like doing so even now more because I have someone who is forever forced to be my taste tester since he decided to marry me. My recent experiments this past week have been rabbit slow cooked in apple cider with onions and raisins, and recipe for sweet potato feta muffins, both getting positive reviews from Mr. Isinvar. More often than not he really enjoys my cooking, leading me to the conclusion that I am a decent cook.
However, there is one comment that surprises me every time I hear it, “It’s too sweet.” Too sweet? I live in the land famous for its chocolate and waffles that have sugar clumps in the dough. How can anything be too sweet?
When we had a barbecue over the summer, I bought the ingredients introduce my Belgian family to the glorious campfire delicacy that is s’mores. My family-in-law was polite enough to try it but the most anyone would say about it was that s’mores are “very sweet.” I apparently was the only one who wanted some more.
I made this curried sweet potato and apple soup in October, thinking that because it has granny smith apples and onions it might be hit with my husband. It also received the “very sweet” comment with the suggestion of adding more than a teaspoon of curry powder and using one less apple.
It’s been a bit of a struggle as I try to find things that are delicious but my husband won’t find to be too sweet. I recently bought sweet potatoes because I saw them at the corner grocer’s decided to try to make a batch of healthy breakfast muffins with them. I actually had to use the search terms “sweet potato muffins -cinnamon” to find a recipe that didn’t use copious amounts of cinnamon, sugar, maple syrup, or honey. What’s interesting to see is that there are literally hundreds of
variations of a sweet potato muffin with a lot of sugar, but if you’re looking for something with a different taste, the majority of your results will be just one recipe: Gwyneth Paltrow’s Sweet Potato and Five Spice Muffin.
The Belgian palate is a hearty one, a very meat and potato culture with hearty stews thrown in the mix. If I had to pick one word to describe the Belgian palate, I’d say salty, where as the American palate is sweet. I think a great illustration of this comes from a recent encounter with my sister-in-law. We were throwing a surprise brunch for my mother-in-law on her birthday and we were discussing the menu for the afternoon. The question arose if we should make any appetizers while we are having drinks before the main meal. Being the silly little American that I am, I suggested fruit cups with yogurt because it was brunch; fresh fruit is very common to find at an American brunch. My suggestion however came across a little odd and too sweet to both my sister-in-law and my husband; chips and these delicious peanuts baked in paprika crunch shells were set out to enjoy with our drinks.
This is not to say that Belgian’s do not indulge in their share of sweet treats. There are speculoos cookies with your coffee, waffles covered in whip creme and strawberries, pancakes heavily dusted with powdered sugar, and rich vanilla cakes. But what you won’t find in Belgium are super sweet snicker doodle cookies or cakes buried under butter cream frosting. Belgians are generally a cake donut kind of people and I am a cinnamon sugar donut kind of person. And that’s not a bad thing — it means that when I inevitably make puppy chow for the first time in Belgium, I expect that there will be more for me!
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