Tuesday, December 25, 2018


My apartment mate is in front of the television watching a Poirot movie. Why would they call it the "Orient Express" in Istanbul? It travels to the Occident. And, given that the only purpose of that train is killing eccentric English-speakers, why not the "Murder Express"? Far less Euro-centric.
Neurotic Belgian bachelors measure eggs. Good thing they separated from us Dutch-speakers aeons ago. We now have nothing in common except our language. They get the Euro-crats and cuisine, we get economic success and a nearby fun place to visit where we don't have to speak English.
Even though to the best of my knowledge, very few English-speakers get whacked on the four-hour train trip from Amsterdam to Antwerp.

Because of this flick she is watching I know precisely what a velouté sauce is, and that Russians have coarse, nay, brutish tastes.

Further, Belgian men have mustaches more ridiculous than the Turks.

She was watching it yesterday evening also.

I didn't learn a thing.

In a Saki (H. H. Munro) short story, the train is stranded in the middle of some ghastly Balkan wasteland by snow, leaving our protagonist with only a grim Slavic peasant woman and a dry salami for company. There is the distant howling of wolves. And the prospect of dying of exposure.

This movie, and that story, indicate that to the British, while travel may in fact broaden the mind, it likely shortens the life-span while simultaneously exposing one to Slavic types. Possibly that exposure shortens the span.
What good can come from snow, Slavs, and salami?

The four hour train ride from Amsterdam to Antwerp lacks those three things. There is herring at one end, and excellent cookery at the other.


A portion of fish (kwabaal) or chicken is poached in a soup comprising thickened broth, with vegetables and fresh herbs: carrots, onions, celeriac (knolseldery), leeks, potatoes and herbs such as parsley, thyme, bay-leaves and sage. The kwabaal or burbot is a fresh-water relative of cod. Because of the degredation of waterways, turbot, snoek, and carp are now often used instead. The dish is often served with bread. It is delicious.

Poirot, of course, is not Flemish, but a Walloon. So he is more peculiar by far than he should be. Neurotic and detail-oriented to a ridiculous degree, obsessed with minutiae. As well as, in the words of his creatrix, "a detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep".
An overly fastidious height-impaired egghead.

If the British were concerned with good food, Agatha Christie would have made him a chef de cuisine, instead of a detective. Possibly he still would have been balding and obsessed with his patent leather footwear -- those are common Walloon characteristics -- but likely not so freakishly short.

Personally, I think the time is right for a fictional detective who is a grim Slavic peasant woman with an affection or reliance on dry salamis, who lives in Amsterdam (herring) and likes visiting Antwerp (waterzooi).
That would be charming, and hold my attention.

Were I to travel on the Orient Express, there would be dry salami in my luggage, just in case.

I like salami.

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