Monday, March 22, 2010

Beer and Lace

Belgium is a cute little european country famous for its chocolates (Godivas, Leonidas confections) its beer (about 700! types of beer), its lace, and many historical, architectural, cultural attractions . When on tour at belgian chocolate factories or beer breweries, one gets to sample the products , and this in itself is a tasty, wonderful experience.

My great surprise at the time of my visit in Belgium, was that at McDonald's - a child and family oriented chain, with most of the staff underage - they, an alcoholic beverage. I thought that was strange. In reply to my questions on the matter, I was told that in Belgium , there were generally fewer restrictions and age related limitations on alcohol consumption than in the USA and other countries, and that beer drinking in particular was a major part of belgian culture. Belgium, so it appeared, was the first country in the world that served beer in its McDonalds.

I must admit that I myself greatly liked the idea of beer with my Mac meal . I was tired and hungry from touring , so a glass of icy cold beer to wash down the Mac burger and the fries was very welcomed . Besides , it was a new experience for me. I usually don't drink alcoholic beverages. It's not that I don't like to , it's just that these beverages don't like me; a drop of wine and my head drops , and this is embarrassing when you're sitting at the table with people. With the belgian beer I 've had no problem at all. Anyway, my all time favourite cold beverage is soda water or sparkling mineral water.

The gem of any tour in Belgium is the well preserved city of Brugges. It' s often called "Venice of the North" because of its canals and bridges. Brugges is synonymous with lace as the 'bobbin lace' work ( a branch of lace making) is a specialty of this city.

Lace -making has an history of exploitation of girls from poor families. The girls , good at this craft because of their little nimble fingers , were considered cheap labour, . Lace making was a sedentary kind of work, bad for the eyes and for the spine. Young girls in convents were sitting for hours bent up, not allowed to raise their eyes from their work. As a result of the hard physical conditions they looked pale, weak, undersized. The girls paid a very heavy personal price to allow the bourgeoise ladies the pleasure of wearing lace.

Nowadays , lace is made chiefly as small souvenirs (doilies mainly) as it is very expensive for other purposes. Anyway, no one leaves Brugges without a souvenir of lace and neither did I.

In the photo below we see a girl dressed in a traditional outfit sitting outside and demonstrating the craft of lace-making.



  1. Wow, it's hard to believe in a place with that many beers, they can manage to make that delicate lace! Chocolate and beer-my two favorites. Yes, I'd fit in there quite fine.

  2. WoW! One could have a Mac~hangover with their Mac~meal. Heeheehehe!

    The lace doilies are beautiful. When I designed and made my wedding gown and veil I used Belgium lace. This was back in the early seventies. I had no second thought of how it was made, I just knew it was beautiful!

    Thanks for the stories, they are always most intriguing.

    God bless ya and have a great week sweet lady! :o)

  3. Such works of beauty from a set of lace bobbins! How fascinating it is to look at a piece of lace, and wonder by whose hand it was made. I love handmade things. They are never quite perfect, which makes them all the more beautiful.

  4. I'm not a fan of beer...(just never acquired a taste for it), but I'm all about the lace and the chocolate! Love the lace pictures.

  5. They need to get that in McDonald's!

  6. I spent a very cold uncomfortable 6 hours or so in the Brussels airport in 1987 when I was on my way to Zambia (we were dirverted from London because of snow). Unfortunately that's all I ever saw of the country.

    On my way back I did a brief European tour & was VERY surprised the there was beer in the McDonalds in Germany. As well as beer there were a lot of rowdy soccer players. We got our food to go!

  7. I was so surprised to read that beer was available at McDonald's in Belgium. I always hope to learn something new each day and this fact was it! What beautiful lace you brought home, I have always loved anything lacey. Sad to think of how it was made and under what conditions in the past.

  8. Another interesting post! A friend visited Brugges a few years and brought back some lace.

  9. Too funny about the beer in the McDonald's that would be weird! Now you need a little map on your page with all the countries that you have traveled too highlighted...I would LOVE to see visuslly where all you have been. When you talk about new places I am always amazed at your travels...thanks for sharing today Duta!!!

  10. Fascinating about the lace-makers and the beer. Poor little girls, what dreadful working conditions! I am not a big fan of beer but I do love ginger-beer. I remember being surprised in France when I saw wine served in the McDonalds! xx

  11. A very interesting read though i didnot understand the combination to be specific.
    Personally speaking I dont like the smell of beer and hence can't tell much about it but the way you expressed about making laces,has increased my artistic hunger so much that i'm eager to go there and watch them make those beautiful laces. May be I could learn the knack of doing them as well, yes im a big fan of handicrafts.
    On a different note felt very sad to know about the exploitation of poor girls.Even now knowingly or unknowingly many haves are exploiting the have-nots in different things. I dont know when this will end.

  12. Very interesting. Beer at McDonald's although it probably will never happen in the U.S., I'm sure it would be a hit. A fun place for the kinds AND mom and pop.

    I love fabrics and lace so reading this bit of history was intriguing. Those poor, young girls worked so hard. But the pieces are beautiful. I have to admit, that without my glasses, I first read "lace-making" as love-making. It was quite a different story.

  13. DUTA:

    First, I am quite jealous that you undertake these lovely trips. I can imagine the amount of local knowledge that you have gained by visiting places. It is invaluable. Now beer with a Mac meal sounds fun but I don't much like Mc Donalds as it homogenises food and tries to colonise local food of any sort. I honestly think chains as these (Mc Donalds, Subway, Starbucks, etc) should be banned but then that's an extreme step to do.

    I liked the lace patterns. Anything worked using hands is quite admired by me. Now that's what I call 'real' work.

    DUTA, another place with character!!!

    Great stopping by here and gaining some knowledge about Belgium.

    Joy always,

  14. I love lace work! I so do enjoy macramé, tatting and turkish, fine crocheting with those tiny, thin crochet hooks.

    But it's true, it is terrible for the eyes. :( I bet those poor girls back then were literally crippled by their work!

  15. The yellow arches have just started serving beer at their establishments near the ocean here in the states. Not a really good practice in either place. Don't get me wrong, I like a good beer but Big Mac is known for its childish atmosphere here and I think that takes away from that aspect. As for the lace, most of us are guilty of enjoying the beauty and not the price of the workers. I would have had to come away with some doilies too. Peace

  16. Elise,

    You mean beer and lace combination? one is a beverage, the other a handicraft. Sometimes to be able to carry out successfully a piece of handwork one needs an alcoholic drink like beer.


    It seems the belgians don't get drunk or dizzy from beers. To them it's like drinking water, part of their daily routine.
    As for your favourites, you'll hardly find a woman who doesn't love chocolate and/or lace.


    I'm trying to imagine your lace wedding gown; it must have been heavenly, especially with you in it as a bride.


    I'm also a lover of handmade things. And Lace is indeed fascinating to look at, and as you say, makes one wonder whose hands created the particular piece of work.

    Janie B.

    Lace is delicate, beautiful; chocolate is sweet, creamy, comforting. I believe, all women love these two goodies.


    I have the feeling that many americans, and people in other parts of the world want beer to be served at McDonald. It might just happen.

    The Bug,

    Pity you saw only the airport. Belgium and its capital city Brussels are well worth a visit.
    As for beer, as far as I know it's indeed served also in Germany McDonalds, and in some other adjacent european countries.

  17. Cheryl,

    To your knowledge, beer is sold not only in Belgium McDonalds but also in the McDonalds of the adjacent european countries such as Holland and Germany.


    Thank you for finding my post interesting; I've seen in Brugges and in Brussels some beautiful lace tablecloths, but quite expensive to buy.


    As a matter of fact, there aren't so many countries I've travelled to. However it's not a matter of number but of content - what a country adds to my life experience.

    Josephine Tale Peddler,

    I didn't know they serve wine at McDonalds in France. I suppose teens are allowed to drink wine as in Belgium they are allowed to drink beer; whether we like it or not,it's an important part of their culture.


    I like your being a fan of handicrafts. I am too. As for exploitation, it is, unfortunately, a sad and permanent issue all over the world.

    Ronda Laveen,

    You may be right about that - beer in the USA becoming a Hit if approved at McDonalds.
    I suppose lace-making is a bit like love-making; one has to love working with threads and needles.

    Susan Deborah,

    I know there's much criticism of McDonalds fast food or junk food as people call it. Nevertheless, there's still big demand for it and I don't think there's a chance of it being banned. But who knows, I may be wrong.

    I'm glad you liked the lace patterns. Things made of lace which are bigger than doilies are very expensive.

  18. What an interesting post. It looks like the American version of 'tatting' may have originated in Brugges. So beautiful. Love the idea of beer and a Big Mac. Love a cold beer once in awhile. Thanks, Duta, for sharing your wonderful experiences.

  19. Şi eu care credeam ca doar la noi se fac macrameuri si manufacturi din acestea minutioase. La noi e traditia asta din mosi stramosi.
    p.s. Si sotul meu a fost in Belgia, la Bruxelles, si a fost impresionat de abundenta sortimentelor de ciocolata.

  20. These delicate doilies reminds me Romanian lace.
    I found on the internet that
    this specific artform was developed sometime in the 1930s
    It actually appears to have originated in Transylvania which was once a part of Hungary and later part of Romania. Romanian nuns took the technique with them to Egypt and taught it to daughters of European expatriate families there.

  21. I don't drink beer or other alcoholic beverages but I love the Belgian chocolate...yummy! I envy you for been in Belgium:)Very nice of you sharing with us our experience.

  22. A nice, ice cold beer with a Mac burger. Now that is what I called civilized! And not just any beer, but Belgian beer. And then I could walk over to a chocolate shop for dessert. Yum!

  23. Pink Panthress,

    My mother used to love crochetting. I'm not good at it. You're right ,of course, about damage to the eyes. There were even cases of lace-making leading to blindness in girls and women.

    Lady Di Tn,

    I do agree with you that drinking beer doesn't go well with kids and 'happy meals';and also that people enjoy beautiful things without giving any thought to the heavy price paid by the poor workers who created those things.

    C Hummel Kornell a/k/a C Hummel Wilson,

    The lace that originates from Brugges is indeed very beautiful, and a cold beer accompanying a Big Mac is sheer delight.

    Bianca Popa,

    Intradevar si in Romania s-a practicat crosetul "din mosi stramosi" Mama mea era foarte pasionata de acest lucru de mana, dar nu lucra dupa metoda speciala cu bobine ca la Brugges, ci doar cu o mica andrea.

    Ciocolata belgiana este de foarte buna calitate, dar c-am scumpa la pret.


    Thanks for the interesting information. I didn't know anything about romanian nuns in Egypt teaching the craft of lace-making.


    Belgian chocolate is 'yummy' indeed; it's also rather expensive. Belgium is a nice country. You'll probably have the chance to visit it sometime.


    Great meal! Mac Burger + Belgian Beer + Belgian Chocolate as dessert. What more does one need?

  24. Beautiful laces, love it.
    And beer in McDonald? Interesting and it looks refreshing. I want to try it.
    (I easily get red all over so I don't drink ;).

    Great post Duta! Thank you for sharing.

  25. Another educational and totally enchanting post from you do you do it? I for one love beer, love the taste! Love McDonalds, love the taste and I love that final picture and the way you incorporated the lace, the little girl and if I'm not mistaken that's our DUTA in there as well right?

  26. Oh my gosh...that lace is gorgeous!

  27. Such an interesting post, Duta.
    Really enjoyed it.
    Thank you!
    I loved the lace patterens.

    Margie :)

  28. Regina,

    With drinking belgian beer , you'll probably not get red. I didn't. It It is indeed as refreshing as the lace is beautiful.


    Thanks for your kind comment.
    You've got 'scanning' eyes, nothing escapes you..
    You love everything, and everyone - it's in your warm nature.


    Coming from you, a craftwoman, "that lace is gorgeous" sounds very genuine.

    Phivos Nicolaides,

    Some say that's a strange combination - that is, drinking beer doesn't go well with lace making which requires deep concentration on the work.


    Thanks. I'm glad you liked the lace patterns and enjoed reading my post.

  29. I'll have a quarter pounder with cheese, French fries and a beer please. Oh, and throw in some ketchup! Wow, that kind of floors me. But with different cultures come different ideas.

    Lace, so delicate, almost like butterfly wings. I'm glad it is not done the old fashioned way anymore. That was so sad.

  30. Duta, isn't it amazing that throughout the course of human history, some of the most gorgeous creations come from hours of toiling? There's just such a seeming contradiction in the hard work of creating such delicate beauty.

    I think of that whenever I see the grand old architecture of the world, with all of the details. Carved wood, carefully pieced together stained glass. Such intricate work, and the impact is so beautiful, but to someone that was hours, and hours of exacting labor. It's just ironic that the very people who create such beautiful things likely were unable to view them with the same appreciation.

    Beer with a Big Mac sounds like a welcome sort of difference. I remember studying a bit about the ancient tradesman and workers in Egypt, and how they lived almost entirely on a very thick sort of beer. A liquid bread of sorts. Filled them up with carbohydrates, and kept them mildly sedated in the evenings. A source of both comfort and nutrition.

    I'm not the biggest fan of beer, but I think of that whenever I do have one. It feels like imbibing a bit of history, really. Like we're brethren of the ancient souls, sturdy and capable. Taking our small pleasures in life. A good glass of beer is like reading a good story, there's just more to it than the surface appreciation.

    Very fitting for the story of lace, too.

  31. Dorraine,

    "like butterfly wings" - I like the comparison.
    As for the beer, it goes well with everything: cheese, meat, fries.

    Land of Shimp,

    I totally agree with you about the contradiction ( hard toiling versus delicate outcome), the irony (the creators haven't got enough energy left to appreciate their intricate, delicate product) , and Beer as one of the small-great pleasures in life.

  32. My first (and only) school trip abroad was to Brugges when I was thirteen. Couldn't get enough beer or chocolate and had to have wine with meals . . . don't know if our teacher-escorts got into trouble; only one or two of us took advantage of the local drinking customs.


  33. Thrup'ny bits,

    Welcome, and thank you for your comment!

    If there's no beer,drink wine (If there's no bread , eat cake - as Marie Antoinette said).
    Anyway, wine is a step forward as far as children are concerned.

  34. As always I learn something new when I visit you. Around here, McDonalds and eating while on the road go together. I can't imagine if all of those drivers were drinking beer with their burgers on the highway! I love Belgium chocolate...and that lace is gorgeous.

    Thanks for the supportive words for my mom. She is very slowly improving and I'm treasuring every day with her.


  35. Sue (Someone's Mom),

    I'm glad your mother is improving; God will see that she gets better soon.

    You're right about the dangers of drunken drivers on the highway, but beer at McDonalds in America will probably not be allowed.

  36. duta,
    how informative you are...
    i like the style of writing, the care for small small things, the knowledge of history and the heart to share your knowledge...
    congrats and thanks...

  37. I'm glad you find in this post some great message. Thank you for the comment.


    I feel very flattered by your words.
    Thanks for your warm comment.