October 23, 2015 / 1:56 PM / 3 years ago

Frites and "fritkots": play dishes up Belgium's culinary pride

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - On a chilly evening in Brussels, two comedians are cooking up a storm on stage, for themselves and the audience.

Belgian actors Claude Semal (L) and Michel Carcan perform the play called "A La Frite" (To the Chip), at Le Public theatre in Brussels, Belgium, in this handout picture taken on August 24, 2015. REUTERS/Bruno Mullenaerts/Handout via Reuters

Theatregoers are treated to a cone of steaming “frites”, or chips, topped with a dollop of homemade mayonnaise before sitting down for a two-man play about - you guessed it - chips.

Lowly “frites” — French fries to Americans — are a source of pride for linguistically divided Belgium, where they are cooked twice in a mixture of lard, horse and beef fat.

As actor Claude Semal says at the start of “A La Frite” (To the Chip), his slapstick ode to the staple of Belgian cuisine, they are the “Walloon yin and Flemish yang” of Belgium, referring to the country’s French- and Dutch-speaking regions.

Semal plays a father who owns a chip stand, while fellow Belgian actor Michel Carcan is the reluctant son who in vain tries to convince his father to use a more modern fryer and cut costs and cholesterol by using oil instead of beef fat.

Semal’s character refuses as he explores the darker side of working in a “fritkot”, or chip stand: “People think you’re on holiday because you live in a caravan, but you work 15 hours a day.”

Life is even more bleak for the chips themselves.

Dressed up as giant chips, Semal and Carcan recount a sad tale of potatoes having to watch their “mothers” die before them - unless they are frozen, which is anathema to Belgian chip sellers.

Despite the laughs elicited by the hapless chips and friteurs, the popular play ends on a sad note.

The father gets a letter from the Belgian authorities informing him that his chip stand has to close down because it disturbs the view of the nearby train station.

“As far as I know people come here to buy chips, not look at the view of the station,” says a bewildered Semal.

Editing by Michael Roddy and Alison Williams

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