Today is a tense day when it comes to U.S.-Belgian relations. With the big World Cup match looming, there's going to be a lot of pressure for Americans to muster up all the anti-Belgian fervor they can manage. This is understandable. The World Cup is a fun and healthy way to get your rah-rah nationalism on without, you know, supporting a war or anything. Still, this is Belgium we're talking about. While it's fun to rip up our Jean-Claude Van Damme posters and joke about burning waffles in effigy ... well, first of all, don't do that. Waffles are delicious. But second of all, Belgium's given us lots of good things! So maybe just take half a second here to nod our heads in the directions of the things we like about Belgium, before we start screaming at them to get their injury-feigning asses off our pitch.
Why I Like Belgium
by The Wire Staff
Fries with Mayo
I've long been mocked for this predilection even as it becomes more fashionable (the line's always outside the door at Belgian-inspired Pommes Frites in the East Village!). I long ago learned that my lot in life would be for someone to make a face at me as I ask my waiter if I can get mayo to come with my fries. There's one blessed country on earth where that would never be the case — Belgium, where you have to ask for mayo NOT to come with your fries. Oh, and everywhere serves fries, and they're basically the best fries in the world. Every time I've visited Belgium, it's been an unadulterated paradise for my deviant mayo-consuming ways. —David Sims
Moules Frites and Kwak
You all can have your frites with mayo. I want mine paired with moules. Yes, moules frites can be found in French bistros, but, as Nick Maglieri wrote in Saveur, "there's good reason to believe that the Belgians were the first to put the two foods together." There is something so satisfying of finishing off a pot of steaming mussels, the evidence of your conquest displayed in the pile of empty shells. Crisp fries are perfect complements to the squishy mussels, and can be dipped in both the accompanying mayo or (and I don't know if this is sacrilegious) the leftover sauce at the bottom of you pot. (Belgian restaurant B Cafe on the Upper West Side of Manhattan features a Red Duvel sauce that mixes hot sauce, blue cheese and garlic and it's so good.) Pair that with and a beer—preferably the Belgian Kwak served in this really cool glass—and you've got a great meal. —Esther Zuckerman
I love the heck out of a World Cup summer, but my first sports love (or one of them, at least, but let's leave the Bills out of this) is tennis, which means my primary association with the nation of Belgium is now-retired tennis star Kim Clijsters. It took me a little while to get onboard with Kim, through very little fault of her own. Her first big breakthrough was a terrific French Open final where she fell to Jennifer Capriati 12-10 in the third. Capriati was one of my favorite players at the time, so I built up some adversarial intent towards Clijsters. It didn't help that she was dating notorious Aussie brat Lleyton Hewitt. But things changed, Kim developed a reputation as the plucky scrapper who just couldn't win the big one (an irresistible hook), and most importantly, she developed a rivalry with fellow Belgian Justine Henin. Mercurial and difficult to like, Henin was from French Belgium while Clijsters was Flemish, creating an irresistible natural rivalry. Clijsters was the clear choice, and by the time she came back from a maternity-dictated semi-retirement to storm the 2009 and 2010 U.S. Opens, there were few tennis players more worth cheering. Thank you for that, Belgium. No matter how harsh I get during today's match. —Joe Reid
My favorite thing about Belgium is the Antwerp Diamond Center, where more than 80 percent of all new diamonds in the world travel on their way to becoming fancy rings and necklaces. I like it not because I particularly care about diamonds, but because this massive concentration of one of the world's most valuable commodities creates the perfect opportunity for dashing international rogues to pull off elaborately sophisticated crime capers, both real and fictional. Everyone loves a good diamond heist, so we should all thank Belgium for making them so attractive and convenient. —Dashiell Bennett
A big export from a tiny place, Belgian beer wields outsize influence in bars across the globe. And for good reason. Lambics, Flemish reds, pale lagers, and monastery-brewed Trappist, all with a high enough alcohol to send you wobbling on your way home. My favorite is a golden ale named Duvel, which actually translates to "devil" from the Dutch because of its 8.5% ABV. Like most Belgian beers, the bottle is quirky and a drinker should rightfully be snittish if your bartender tries to serve it in the wrong kind of glass. —Adam Chandler
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