I gave Belgium a little good-natured ribbing in that last post about being boring for following rules, and a couple hours later the Universe reminded me that it is very much my culture too. Yesterday evening as I was waiting for my train home, I was called upon by a unanimous resolution of God, Country, and My Stomach to indulge in one of Belgium’s gifts to humanity: the waffle.
There is in fact a difference between American waffles and Belgian waffles. The latter are lighter, fluffier, and thicker, owing to the use of either a special waffle-only flour and/or yeast. The main exemplar of this is the Brussels waffle, which is properly served warm, with powdered sugar. They also sell it with whipped cream, chocolate, or fruit topping, which are all considered somewhat touristy here, though Belgians eat those too. (And Spirits of the Redwoods help me, sometimes I just have to get that chocolate waffle…so delicious and horrible…)
There are also Luikse waffles (Luik is a city in Belgium, “Liège” in French) which have a type of sugar crystal in it, so it has a sort of crunchy glaze texture. You can put the sweet toppings on Luik waffles too, but I don’t recommend it, unless you have a large glass of beverage at hand, and/or the sugar capacity of a 7 year old. They also have a slightly different shape, with the batter not poured all the way to the outer part of the iron, so it is sort of circular.
There are waffle stands in most Belgian downtowns, and there is one in the Antwerp train station that fills the loitering area with a sugary smell of baking that is positively licentious on a freezing evening.
End of tangent.
So last night I got in line behind a young Belgian lass, who was behind a gleeful elderly couple paying for their Luikse waffles. As they searched for their cash a couple of guys from a different part of the world came up, one moving right to the front, examining the display, then ordering when the delighted older folks danced the two-step away with their waffles in hand.
So this fella cut in front of the Belgian lass and myself. She prickled and scowled silently, as we do, and I stared at the guy to see if he was aware of us at all. I don’t think he was. Honestly. I really don’t think he meant to be rude. He wasn’t pushing ahead with a “screw you” sort of feel, he just didn’t seem to have a concept of The Line. I don’t think it’s racist to say that there are cultures that do not use this system…is it?
Think back to elementary school. Teachers straining for years to get you and your shrieking little velociraptor friends to form a line. As natural as it seems now, forming lines is not an instinctive behavior. (Ants do it to follow a scent trail. Geese do it to draft off each other when flying. Those ain’t lines in the sense we use.)
It reminds me of the first time I went to Morocco. I got off the boat with the Austrian fellows I had met onboard, and we tromped through the ferry terminal in Tangier. We got to the x-ray thingy and all lined up, put our bags on the belt, and walked to the other end…to see that there was no one else there. No bored dude planning his weekend with eyes glued unseeing to the little screen. We saw a device, made an assumption of a rule, formed our tidy line, and complied. Meanwhile the Moroccans on the boat were halfway to the medina.
Okay, this is a wandering ramble of a post, but it’s a blog, you’re just lucky I pay some attention to spelling.
The point (or thing closest thereto) is that standing in lines may be boring, but I’ll take it over the alternative any day. A system of “whoever is loudest and most up-in-the-face gets served” engenders assholes, because let’s be honest, in this context “assertive” is a euphemism for asshole. If that waffle stand in the train station just served the loudest first, that cuddly little old couple would have had to wait for their waffles, and that is just not right.
(I delayed posting this so I could take a picture of the waffle stand and some waffles today after class, but of course forgot the camera, but that’s okay because they had set up a temporary stage and some chick was self-consciously covering Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy on acoustic guitar, which, delightful as that was, is not the point. So here’s a pilfered picture of someone else’s blog, courtesy of google images.)