About the food of Luxembourg

The river Alzette in Luxembourg Pfaffenthal. Photo by Cayambe.

My first afternoon in Luxembourg, my family took me on a tour.

“There’s downtown” my foster dad said.

“Where?” I asked, spinning my head around. I looked just in time to see a street blur by.

“You missed it,” he deadpanned.

It wasn’t until he said, “I’ll turn around” and actually did that I realized he wasn’t kidding.

Luxembourg is tiny, yet still ranks as “only” the 24th smallest country in the world. We could cross the entire country in about 45 minutes (the long way).

Luxembourg terraces. Photo by Владимир Шеляпин.

Despite her small size, or perhaps because of it, Luxembourg is an amazingly diverse community. Almost all the locals speak three, sometimes four languages – usually Luxembourgish, English, German, and French.

The food is usually characterized as a blend of French and German food, and that is pretty accurate, as long as you account for a healthy dose of country cooking. Most of Luxembourg is very rural, filled with endless rolling hills. Cows and other animals dot the grassy slopes. As you dip in and out of the hills, radio signal comes and goes – but it doesn’t matter because the scenery is so beautiful, you hardly notice.

Our house wasn’t quite ready for us to move into those first few nights, so we stayed at a small hotel – really more of a grey, crumbling, stone B&B. The bustling yard clucked and bleated to welcome our arrival. It was my first time to set eyes on so many baby sheep. That night’s dinner was a hearty stew and, although I can’t quite remember the ingredients, the down-home feel of the experience stuck with me.

Our entire grade 12 in 1998.

What I eventually did learn was that Luxembourg approaches food seasonally. Their simple green bean soup (Bouneschlupp [Recipe], topped with a spicy sausage and bacon reigns supreme because the ingredients can be easily grown in Luxembourg. Jut mat gaarde Bounen, or smoked collar of pork with broad beans, is generally considered the national dish and, again, features regional, seasonal fare. Highlights in the patisseries include local plums, pears and apples which, when in season, become glorious components of tarts, cakes [Recipe] and more.

Then there’s the fun food – every country has some. The best place to find it? At the Christmas market which pops up downtown every December. There, you can find mulled wine [recipe], gingerbread [recipe], and fried foods, like a deep-fried hashbrown snack  [Recipethat can be enjoyed with applesauce [recipe] or ketchup. The technical name? Gromperenkichelcher. That’s what my Luxembourger friends tell me, anyway. Let the record state, I copied and pasted that word.

My bestie and I, Marianne. Apparently I have, in fact, made a "duck face" before. Who knew!

I’ll always remember the three years I spent in Luxembourg as an intense time of emotional growth. Slowly and imperfectly, I began the process of cleaning up my act -something sorely needed after my wild years in Paris. That’s not to say I wasn’t still doing things I shouldn’t, but I was learning right from wrong. In retrospect, I believe my growth had great part to do with living a block from a pasture.  Full of the worst kind of teenage angst, I often ambled down to the fence where I sang “Under the Bridge” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers to any cows or horses who would listen.

It was incredibly therapeutic. For me, anyway.

What are your favorite foods from the region?

Maps and flag courtesy of CIA World Factbook

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Comments

  1. Jessica Bennett says:

    Were you in school all the years you were in Luxembourg? And I didn’t realize you were quite so young (not that you look old- I am older than you are and sometimes can still pass for a teenager- I assume those people aren’t looking too carefully). The green bean soup sounds interesting. If that’s not on your menu, I’ll have to look elsewhere for a recipe- definitely something I’d like to try.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Yes, it was 10th-12th grade. I then left for Wesleyan University (in Connecticut) later that last summer. Stay tuned for the bean soup recipe ;)

  2. What fun memories!!!!

  3. Gromperenkichelcher. Sounds pretty much like “Grummbeerekiechle” from my Alsacian neck of the woods. Considering Lorraine is not too far I wouldn’t be surprised it’s the same dish. Grated potatoes with mashed potatoes and seasonning (something rÖsti style ?) Brings up fun memories of blood tainted grated potatoes when the piece got too small and we came dangerously close to the steel of the grater… and my grand ma made those like no one else ever will.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      How fun! Sounds pretty similar except for the addition of mashed potatoes… just grated. And, yes, my knuckles have suffered at the hands of Gromperenkichelcher as well. It’s probably a rite of passage lol.

  4. I am so excited…you’ve hit a country that I actually have visited! :)

  5. I always enjoy a little background story, it makes you feel like you know the blogger you are reading a bit better. Luxembourg looks beautiful and I have heard many nice things about it. Must be fun for you to revisit through its food. Enjoy the trip down memory lane!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Absolutely! I’ll try and share more tidbits throughout the week… we’ll see what I come up with :) Looking at the old pictures, I’m realizing I was quite the personality…

  6. John Goodenow says:

    Hope you include the pork collar. I’ve been wanting to try that for a couple of years. Is it similar to smoked bacon or pork belly?

  7. I find singing aloud the best therapy in the world – always do when I feel really down, especially when I was a teenager. It is always useful to live in a corner where it is quite easy to just have cows as an audience unless you have a really beautiful voice ;)

  8. Fun pictures!!!

  9. Catherine says:

    I have been reading your blog for a little while and couldn’t wait to see what you would do with Luxembourg. I was born and raised there! I left for college and never made it back (married an Air Force guy :) ). Anyway…I love the recipes you posted. I know there were quite a few to choose from. I have yet to find the “right” kind of sausage for the Bouneschlupp here in the US. Thanks for sharing “home” with me!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Catherine, I also didn’t find the right sausage, but it doesn’t change the fact that this soup is epic. I actually bought more green beans on Wednesday to make the soup this weekend… it’s another one that is now a “regular”

  10. Hello!
    Thank you for this. I love this soup and have fond memories of it’s delicious aroma filling my grandmother’s kitchen.
    She always served it with a little vinegar and sour cream as garnish. Perfection!

    My paternal grand parents were born in Luxembourg. My grandmother in Hollerich and my grandfather in Esch Sur Alzette. This past year I had the privilege of meeting cousins from both sides. One group is centered around Bertrange and for many years has sponsored exchange students. I very much enjoyed seeing the beautiful picture of the area. It’s just as I have imagined.

    Love your entire site. What a marvelous adventure and Ava is adorable.

    Sincerely,
    Linda Ford

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Thank you, Linda. The vinegar sounds delicious in there (then, again, I love anything with vinegar). Hope you get to go to Luxembourg soon. It really is beautiful!

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