Pompeii take-away delights archaeologists

Archaeologists who partly unearthed a Roman take-away in Pompeii in 2019, have shared more information as they continue to work on the spot. This “snack bar” is not unique, for Pompeii had over one hundred of them. What does delight archaeologists: the shop is fairly complete and unlike at other ‘take-away’ shops, its frescoes are preserved.

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Part of the economics department of the university in a friend’s town is branching out. A new location has been found. The new branch will have its own canteen and café.

This has not deterred some project developer from presuming students swim in money, are always hungry, love fast food. So right next to the uni department’s new branch, a row of fast food shops are being built. A MacDonald’s with café, will open soon. Shops of other international brands are under construction.

I thought one shop was going to be the exception to this row of fast food chains. I presumed at least one shop would offer healthy food to talented, young hopefuls.

Not so, I’m afraid. On my way home, I read its slogan, proudly sprawled across the shop front of this yet to open venue:

“Been making killer salads since 1922!”

Seems Sweeney Todd has entered town.

 

Mitraillettes, Marrons, Escargots

In the end, I chickened out. I’d read the long list of Fritkot Place de la Chapelle. (In case you want to know more about this fritkot: “Pistolet, Paquet, Mitraillette”. Other good ones were mentioned in “Best Fritkot”.) They have a long list of different mitraillettes, all including bread, frites, crudités.

The list ranges from a mitraillette frites, costing only about 3.50 Euro, to expensive versions costing over five Euro. So there I was: tempted to order a mitraillette mergez costing 4.50 Euro. But at the last moment, I settled for a petit paquet – small portion – with sauce Bearnaise.

Why I didn’t go for the mitraillette? At Place de la Chapelle, you’re out in the open. There is no shelter. There was a stiff breeze blowing. All benches were taken. A dish including bread, frites, crudités, one or two sausages, and perhaps a dollop of sauce, is no meal I can comfortably stuff into my mouth under such conditions.

The fries were the usual excellent quality. So perhaps next time, I might give in to temptation – provided I can sit down. On the other hand, there is a long list of sauces still to be tried out with a petit paquet, like Andalouse.

Lunch settled, I loitered downtown to one of my favourite, quirky pubs. Poechenelle Kelder is on the other side of Manneken Pis. Due to the weather the terrace was closed, but inside it was warm and welcoming. Like many Belgian pubs, it offers a limited choice of pub food. It isn’t a restaurant.

This did not prevent tourists from entering, expecting a long list of lunch dishes to choose from. Complaining, they left without even bothering to taste any of the hundreds of beers on offer. In came an American couple wanting take-away-coffee. Staff told them all drinks are served in cups with saucers, or glasses. Poeche is no Starbucks.

I settled for a small Faro. Apart from the ordinary beer list, each table already sported a list of Christmas beers. If you decide to have a beer here, have a look at all lists, including the blackboard. This pub has weekly and monthly favourites offered at cheaper rates. Spoiled for choice? Staff will gladly advise you.

After reading one of the papers and finishing my Faro, I continued loitering. Around the Bourse building, Brussels was already preparing for the festive season. A Christmas market stall was already there. On one of the corners next to the building stood a small caravan. It’s owner sold marrons. Though I love these, I walked on: five chestnuts cost 1.50 Euro.

Across the road is another stand. It’s there permanently and offers food for the brave, the bold, the non-squeamish. It sells escargots. You’ll have to find out yourself what a helping costs. I simply don’t belong to the brave, the bold, the non-squeamish.

Poechenelle website: Poeche

Pistolet, Paquet, Mitraillette

While sauntering through Brussels, I noticed people not only eating in-doors, but also at tables on the pavement, even on the go. My stomach and brain agreed: it was lunch time.

I was in the Marollen; not near the lovely Eglise des Sablons, nor near the small deli and restaurant right next to the Eglise des Minimes. The Eglise de la Chapelle was within sight and walking distance! There happened to be a fritkot next to this church I had not recently visited. (See “Best Fritkot”.) Like “Antoine” and “Frit Flagey”, the “Fritkot Chapelle” at Place de la Chapelle is also regularly mentioned in lists of “meilleur fritkot en Bruxelles”.

It usually is less crowded than the other two. When I arrived, there was only one couple in front of me. This was a nice change from the two very long queues at Antoine and the queue at Frit Flagey.

My French is not that good and I should have read the menu first. So when I ordered a small portion in my best French, the owner smiled and nodded: I wanted a “paquet”. That is the ordinary word for a portion and he offered a choice between small (“petit”) and normal. I settled for the small “paquet”, for don’t be fooled. As is so often the case in Belgium, small is what in other EU countries is deemed normal size. It costs 2 Euro and the normal portion only 0.50 Euro more. A helping of the listed sauces sets you back another 0.50 Euro. At this fritkot, your portion is served in a carton cone with a paper napkin. The carton cone has a small “poche” at the top. Your sauce is in this small container.

When my cone was handed across the counter, I picked a small plastic fork, walked to an empty bench, sat down and admired the church while eating my lunch. Other tourists as well as locals strolled around eating their frites admiring the square’s big fountain, or chatting to each other. It was all quite relaxed and laid-back. Place Jourdan is quite crowded, but here as Place Flagey, it is far less bustling. However, unlike at Place Flagey, there are less benches. So you may end up having to eat your paquet standing.

The fries were just as I liked them and better than the portion I had at Frit Flagey. So as far as I’m concerned this is the best fritkot so far. You can also order snacks to go with your French fries and even a selection of combinations of snack + French fries + soft drink. I did not check, but they may even offer a “mitraillette”.

This is a Brussels version of the Turkish-Dutch “kapsalon” (hairdresser’s) dish: half a French stick sliced open, with warm meat or a snack, French fries, sauce, and occasionally salad. Something to try next time?

A description of the “kapsalon”;
A description of the “mitraillette”;
Info on Brussels fries and list of fritkots: frites