I started playing soccer at Carrollton playground in 1977 or so. I kept it up, and years later — before I had kids of my own — I coached there too. I still play, and I still love the game.
I mention this because as some of you may know the United States men’s national team lost this week in the World Cup to Belgium, and I am still having trouble getting over it.
The Belgian national team is a “dark horse” favorite to win the World Cup. The players on the team ply their trade in the best leagues in the world. On paper, they were a lot better than the U.S. team, but we had a chance, and that makes the loss pretty painful.
Now you may be wondering what this has to do with food or restaurants or anything else I normally cover here at Haute Plates Light Industries and Medical Devices Servicing. I don’t know; I just know I’m gutted by the loss.
But life goes on, and so does the world of food in New Orleans.
For example, did you know that Treo
is open for lunch now? True! You can find the same small plates-focused menu
that you could previously in the evening, and if you need convincing of the quality, try the fried oysters with smoked paprika remoulade and shaved Manchego.
OK, here’s another thing that makes the loss painful. I only know two Belgians, and I like both of them. One of them is Patrick Van Hoorebeek
who is, as that link will tell you, the quintessential New Orleans host. (The other is a professor of statistics at the University of Iowa, which has nothing to do with food or soccer, and I’m now regretting mentioning it.)
It’s difficult to generate negative emotion about Belgium given my friendship with Patrick, and believe me, I’m trying. Here is something from the Wikipedia page on Belgium, “It is sometimes said that Belgian food is served in the quantity of German cuisine but with the quality of French food.” I think that is probably only said in Belgium, and even then only by very, very sad people who live in the German-speaking part of Belgium.
Because hey! Fries are great, and so is beer! We love chocolate, and Belgians are great at chocolate! Know what else they’re great at? Waterzooi! It’s a rich stew! Seriously, it’s actually very good, and I highly recommend the only Belgian cookbook I’ve ever seen: Everybody Eats Well in Belgium
And there I go again, failing to generate the animosity towards Belgium and Belgians that I should as a patriotic American. And it’s not because Belgium is not really a country and is pretty much always just about to fall apart along ethnic and linguistic lines even though that’s totally true.
And I also don’t think it’s because the Belgians I know are fine folks. I would cut Van Hoorebeek like a trout if forced to. I think it’s because the Belgians just out-played us, and while as an American I know I should want to send un-manned drones into Antwerp as a result, I feel more like wishing them luck against Argentina.
Which, come to think of it, is another country with great food and a better representation in New Orleans in the form of La Boca
. One good thing about our loss to Belgium is that we don’t have to worry about playing Argentina, which is just about the only team in the tournament that’s truly capable of beating Brazil. It also means I don’t have to gin up some sort of nonsense straw-man argument about La Boca or the Argentines I know. We’re all better off for that, because I don’t know any Argentines well enough to be critical.
In sum, go try the oysters at Treo and root for Belgium or Argentina or Brazil.