by Richard Harris, Brussels
The open air market on Saint-Gilles church square has been operating for centuries starting when Saint-Gilles was a small village on a hillside overlooking Brussels. The fields around the village are where people first started cultivating Brussels sprouts over 600 years ago taking advantage of the many natural springs that flowed down the hill. Now Saint-Gilles is one of the 19 boroughs that make up Brussels and it's a lively mix of different ethnicities and nationalities living in handsome Art Nouveau and Art Deco neighborhoods. As well as the age-old Sunday morning market there are morning markets four other days a week, though they tend to offer more dry goods than food. The Sunday morning market is the classic food market with everything from a fishmonger to a guy who sells nothing but potatoes. In between there are fowl merchants, butchers, vegetable stands, fruit stands, cold cuts and cheese stands, olive sellers, bakers, wine merchants etc. Last year a gourmet/organic evening market was created on Thursday evenings and it's a big success with quite a few prepared food stands and organic beer and wine merchants. The whole square becomes one big café terrace filled with animated conversations as everyone relaxes after a day's work.
EVA (Ethical Vegetarian Alternatives) is a Belgian organization which promotes vegetarian eating through a number of different actions - information stands, conferences, cooking classes, their website, and special events. They promote Veggie Thursdays to get people to eat vegetarian at least one day a week. As they tell it, if a person has one meatless day per week that person will eat 250 less animals during his/her lifetime. And since it takes 22 pounds of grain and 4,000 gallons of water to produce 2 pounds of beef and also since livestock raising contributes one fifth of greenhouse gasses, everyone doing a meatless day will help appreciably to lower the world's carbon footprint. Which brings us to today's event. EVA decided to take advantage of the popularity of the Saint-Gilles Thursday evening market and set up what they claim is the longest vegetarian table ever in Belgium for a Veggie Afternoon/Evening.
The food was phenomenal and everyone had a fabulous time.