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).
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.
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 [Recipe] that 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.
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?