I am thrilled to announce that in November 2021 my book “Belgian Café Culture” (Authentieke Belgische Cafés in Dutch) is getting a 5 year anniversary edition with a new cover!
This book is a plea to carefully handle the fragile café heritage of Belgium. For too long have we taken these little cafés for granted. Not enough have we stopped to think about their history and their relevance in our culture. They are part of our social and cultural patrimony in Belgium. When I walk the streets, everywhere I look I see forgotten and lost cafés.
When I read in the papers that a much-loved café was going to close down I went to visit it, to talk to the people there who were about to lose their local. I was probably one of the last to document it. Nothing could be done; the owners of the building wanted to renovate the café and there is wind of a more hipster implementation. For this reason alone a lot of authentic cafés have had to go.
But the need for modernisation is not the only reason why so many old Belgian cafés disappear. The ones that have been in the family for generations often disappear because there are no children who want to take over, or because no-one dares to take over an old-fashioned café. The cafés that have been closing in the last 5 years mostly become residential dwellings. All that remains are the memories of those who used to drink there.
A café can be the centre of a community, where people laugh and cry together over a glass of ale. Where disagreements are settled with words and sometimes with the fist. But where people often help those who are in need. Listen to those who would otherwise only have silence as a reply. Births and weddings are celebrated, but so are the dead.
Belgian Café Culture and the Dutch edition Authentieke Belgische Cafés will be published with Luster start of November 2021.
The book was featured by the BBC Radio 4’s The Food Program.