Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Best Eggs in the World are from Zottegem Belgium!

Welcome to 2012! If the Mayans and the Hopis are right we will all be profoundly changed by the end of this year. I look forward to change, what choice do I have?

Acording to my wise friend, Erwin Helfer, one of the cornerstones of life is impermanance. (More on my 7 hour intensive chat with the great Chicago Pianist and Sage later) All we can do is live and try to learn from our experiences. Behind every success are a host of failures. The difference between winners and losers is the former have fallen, gotten up, dusted themselves off and tried again and again. Enjoy your challenges, be bold and I'll tell you some stories.

I've had Europe on my mind lately, my many interesting friends there, who have all contributed to my good life and long memories! It all started for me in Belgium, well, actually it started at Blue Chicago where I was the Tuesday night Diva, singing with Aron Burton's Band. Unbeknown to me, a wild and crazy Belgian entrepreneur named Filip Moore had come to the Chicago Blues Festival and on to Blue Chicago afterwards to see my show.

We had a hot band back then, regular members included Allen Batts (who'd played with Aron in Albert Collins band during their Alligator years) on keys, Jr. Wells bandleader, George Baze played guitar and after George passed Michael Dotson took his place (before leaving to tour the world with Magic Slim). We had Orlando Wright (now Buddy Guys bass player) and either Willie or Kenny Smith. Everybody sang, everybody shined, it was a HOT band, one of those times in life you look back on with amazement. The band is documented, BTW, on the 1996 Earwig release Aron Burton Live from Legends, but that's another story.

The first time I went to Europe Filip Moore brought me to Belgium to play the 1995 Moore Blues Festival in Zottegem Belgium with headliners John Primer, Albert King, Rod Piazza and the Mighty Fliers and Tom Principato. We were all staying at the same family run hotel (except Albert King, who found it beneath his level of stardom, and he was moved to a Hilton or some such in Brussels, far away from the fun. Later, I ended up working with his drummer, Dave Jefferson, but we didn't meet at that time.) and after the last night of the festival we all sat together out in the garden, (except Rod Piazza who was feeling ill) looking up at the stars, enjoyng the company, telling jokes and smoking immeasurable quantities of hash before having to submit to airport security the next day. Have you ever drunk yourself sober? Well, we smoked ourselves straight, I've never really liked hash after that, except this one time in Germany, but that's another story.

As a festival and first trip to Europe, it was an amazingly successful time. Great crowds of blues loving fans packed the countryside for the entire weekend, drinking the staggering variety of Belgian Beers, eating the wonderful, fresh food, and listening! The music sounded great, everybody was on time and in tune. It was so successful, in fact, that Filip brought me back the following February for another short tour.  

Because everything in Belgium is driving distance from everything else in Belgium, I was lodged in a studio apartment about 5 miles out of Zottegem (which I'm told is Flemmish for 'Town of Fools') on the property of two good friends of Filips, who lived with their two small children in a converted school building across a stone courtyard from my accommodations. When it was time for the gig one of the band would come collect me, drive me to the show and then see me home after, quite convenient and more logical than a hotel.

The studio was an ancient stone building and the whole place was situated on an old stone road built centuries earlier by invading Romans. Outside my window was a cow pasture, down the old Roman road one could walk past family farms with Brussels Sprout bushes growing in their front yards and plow horses stamping in the back. They really DO eat Brussels sprouts here and lots of Belgian endive, cooked every way possible, but I digress.

I walked down this road one day, without a map, a phone or any knowledge of Flemmish, which is what people spoke around those parts, and found myself in a small Medieval town. Most of it seemed closed, but I did find my way to a museum with archaeological artifacts from the surrounding area. Piecing together the French, Latin and Flemmish descriptions I came to understand that the whole area had been under Roman occupation at one time and all the peasants thereabouts beholden to Caesar. Hmm, interesting, but the snack shop was closed and I was actually looking for some food. Behold, another turn and there was a tiny store with just eggs, milk, yogurt and cheese. I bought one of each and walked back to my ancient digs to eat them.

Without condiments or butter, without, onions or veggies, I was not too excited about eating these boiled eggs, but let me just tell you: I never had eggs before I had those fresh from the farm, Belgian Eggs!
I've had eggs in New Orleans at a famous breakfast establishment; not nearly as good.
I've had eggs in Iowa, supposedly laid in the hands of pure of heart Amish Folk, they don't hold a candle. These Belgian eggs had yellows that were nearly orange! They were so full of flavor, the whites actually had personality!!

I began to wonder what the heck we're doing to American eggs to make them taste so bland and watery?

Somebody once said "You might not remember what somebody said, but you remember how they made you feel."  I guess the Belgian eggs were such a sensory delight that I've never forgotten them, they almost overshadow the strange supernatural events that began to transpire the moment I stepped foot in that ancient studio, but that's another story.

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