The future of food in focus during Week van de Smaak


Flanders’ annual celebration of all things food kicks off today, with a look at the future of eating – from family rituals to carbon footprints

Market of tomorrow

In 2009, American professor and author Michael Pollan spoke a few words at a conference that would go down in food history: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

It seems so simple. And yet most of us struggle every day to follow these rules.

While this year’s Week van de Smaak (Week of Taste) in Flanders and Brussels has the future of food as its theme, its events and initiatives bring us back around to Pollan’s words. It seems that the habits of the past – avoid processed food, watch the fat and sugar – are the keys to a healthy future.

Though to be fair, the historically traditional way of eating was based more on culture than on health concerns. There was no processed food. There was no expectation to have access to virtually any product at any time, so food came to people from farms closer to home. Many women didn’t work outside the home and had time to plan and make meals.

Rituals, in other words, change, explains Luc Martens, mayor of Roeselaere and chair of Vol-au-vent, which organises Week van de Smaak. “Eating has much to do with rituals, which are forced to change with the times,” he says. “New products come on the market. There are new production process and ways of storing food. There are other forms of distribution. We simply live completely differently.”

Full steam ahead

Today’s health concerns in Flanders – heart disease, cancer and a startling increase in Type II diabetes – are all tied to the changes inherent in how and what we eat. Week van de Smaak’s focus this year is on how and what we’ll eat in the future, tackling these health concerns and also the sustainability of the food chain.

There are close to 300 activities taking place as part of this 11th edition of the event, from how to get creative with your lunchbox to a lesson on growing your own veggies. Central is De Markt van Morgen (The Market of Tomorrow), a sort of traveling show of innovative foodie entrepreneurs that will put down stakes for one day in every provincial capital and in Brussels.

Eating has much to do with rituals, which are forced to change with the times

- Luc Martens

De Markt van Morgen features start-ups that are visionary in the way they prepare and deliver food. Sympli Good Food, for instance, is working to develop wholly new vegetables to offer more variety in the kitchen, while Omega Baars operates the country’s only organic fish farm.

Some of them are still looking for funding, like MealHero, which has a Kickstarter campaign to launch a food delivery service with reusable containers. All their meals are cooked in the containers with steam.

These innovative companies are following demand, conforming to the new rituals taking place in households and restaurants across the region. But rituals, notes Martens, “also differ from country to country,” so attention is being paid to new residents as well. Newcomers in Limburg are serving up dishes from their native lands, while in East Flanders a workshop will teach you how to make a Syrian meal with Belgian influences – and vice versa.

16-26 November, across Flanders

Photo courtesy Madam Bakster