Universal and International Exhibition of Liege 1905

75th anniversary of national independence

April 25, 1905 - November 6, 1905


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Food

Food at the Exhibition Expo Liege 1905

Belgium has always been famous for its gastronomic art, which no one disputes and which goes back to ancient times. Jordaens, the Flemish painter, his compatriot Teniers and many other artists of the same school painted, in numerous pictures, scenes of orgies and feasting, pushed to such a degree of realism that they appear to be the ritual gesture of a pantheistic religion, the religion of the solid stomach and the bouncing belly. Since then, either as a survival of the past or as a respect for it, Belgium's gastronomic reputation has been maintained, especially in Flanders. Moreover, there is no religion easier to practice than this one. The observation that only Belgian cellars contain true Burgundy is a matter of adage, and more than one foreign writer has recalled in moving and good-natured terms the delicious quality of Belgian hospitality. It does not follow from this that the Belgian has no aptitude other than for celebrating the rites of the Bacchic religion.

As various thinkers have pointed out, it is the most cultured peoples who bring the greatest amount of materiality to their celebrations.
the largest share of materiality in their celebrations.

This concern of the Belgian to eat well and copiously perhaps explains the importance of the food group in the Belgian section of the Exhibition.

It was located in the upper halls, between the Trade and Colonisation and Military Art groups on the one hand, and the machinery hall on the other.

The equipment and processes of the food industries (class 55), was first of all striking by its importance. The great machines that are the pride of our brewers, distillers, millers and in general of our food processors were represented by their most beautiful specimens.

Among the many exhibitors in this compartment, we shall mention Hoton and Vandam, from Uccle-Brussels; A. Hernotte, from Brussels; Joseph et Cie, from Brussels; Pasteger et fils, from Liège; Pieters frères, from Brussels; Relecom et fils, from Brussels; Sociétés anonymes Misonne, from Lodelinsart; du Phoenix, from Ghent; Thonnart et fils, from Liège; Emmanuel Trojan, from Forest lez-Brussels; Usines Meura, from Tournai; Wilmus, from Charleroi. Next to them, the brewery school of Louvain and the Institute of Ghent occupied an important place in this class. It is well known that these two special schools are renowned not only in Belgium, but also abroad.

The collections of products exhibited by the Leuven school included the "Security" yeast for the treatment of furunculosis, nails, anthrax, etc.

There was also a saccharifier by Professor Pierraerts, hydrometers with agitators, etc.

The Ghent Institute exhibited oil cakes and yeasts, a collection of hops from Aalst, Poperinghe, Bavaria and Bohemia.

Various handwritten documents gave the number of pupils and the course programme, and photographs showed exterior and interior views of the school.

Class 56, which included the important flour products and their derivatives, was no less well represented. A number of exhibitors, many of whom were members of the Maltsters' Association, were keen to present malts of all origins, barley and barley malt, the quality of which was highly commended. In this type of product, all the major companies in the country were represented.

Starch in sticks, packets and boxes were grouped together in very ingenious display cases; the names of important Belgian companies were also noted in this type of product, in particular the famous Société Anonyme des Usines Remy, in Wygmael lez-Louvain, the largest starch factory in the whole world.

The superiority of Belgian products lies in the uniformity of quality. Great efforts have been made to achieve this goal: the rational organisation of work has gone hand in hand with the improvement of machinery.

The vermicelli and pasta in various designs, macaroni in sheaves, noodles, lazagnes, semolina, starches and tapiocas formed beautiful showcases. In the middle of these, the limited company "Le Bon Grain", which has offices in Morlanwelz, Mariemont and Les Hayettes, had created a display of cereal flours, groats, gluten and semolina, with contrasting colours and curious arrangements, which interested all the visitors.

The bakery and pastry products, belonging to class 57, were grouped together in varied displays whose very careful arrangement further accentuated the succulence of the products they contained. One could notice, in particular, the shop windows of the bakers' guild, which brought together, under the names of eleven of its members, the finest bakery products, even reaching the delicacy of pastries.
the delicacy of pastry.

Luxury gingerbread, filled with fruit and orange peel, was also represented. In this type of product, the names of the Biscuiterie "Le Lion", from Louvain, the Grande Boulangerie de Bressoux and the "Bon Grain" from Morlanwelz-Mariemont-Hayettes, which also exhibited dry biscuits, desserts and other products of the same kind, were noted. For these last products, the Delhaize
Frères et Cie, which exhibited in many groups, stood out with a luxurious display of gingerbread and dry biscuits.

Also of particular note, because of their undisputed reputation and the size of their installations, were the Société Anonyme des Biscuits Parein, in Antwerp, which exhibited so-called English biscuits and various biscuits, and Messrs De Beukelaer et Cie, in Antwerp.

Displays of almond bread, Greek bread, delicious speculations and mastelles completed the representation of Belgian industries in this class.

This was followed by class 58, which included preserved meat, fish, vegetables and fruit.

At the time of the Paris Exhibition in 1889, the food canning industry in Belgium was still in a rudimentary state. In their trials and tribulations, the small manufacturers who were involved in this industry saw no possible outlet for it. Preparing a few preserves for a limited clientele, they were not equipped and had hardly any personnel around them to help them fight against their competitors from neighbouring countries.

Struck by this state of affairs and the unequal struggle that these industrialists had to endure, the Government decreed an entry fee of 15 francs per 100 kilograms on foreign preserves. Since then, this industry has developed in considerable proportions. The outlet opened up by the Congo enabled it to equip itself and to set up a large and continuous production.

Powerful factories were created, the old welded can was replaced by the perfectly safe crimped can; in short, the Belgian canning industry is now able to compete with the similar industry abroad.

Many of these important companies were in class 58. These included Delhaize Frères et C'S and, above all, the powerful "Le Soleil" company from Mechelen, which stood out with a very fine display of vegetables in tins and bottles, game pâtés, sauces, fillings, tiarengs in white wine, preserves in vinegar, fruits in natural and syrup form.

Sugars and confectionery, condiments and stimulants (class 59) included a large number of installations, among which those of M. Meurisse of Antwerp and Delhaize Frères et Cie of Brussels, who made their chocolate in front of the public, were immediately noteworthy.

These two important companies had participated in the Exhibition in a truly splendid way. The Delhaize Company, among others, occupied a large and elegant pavilion surrounded by luxurious showcases containing a host of products from a large number of classes; this Company manufactures in its establishments the majority of products used by the housewife and sells them in its five hundred and eighty
ninety-five branches.

The manufacture of chocolate was followed with curiosity by a large number of visitors. Over a very gentle fire, one could see the cocoa being roasted in sheet metal cylinders, similar to coffee burners, an operation which has the three very appreciable advantages of developing the smell of the cocoa, making the shells fragile and removing all bitterness.

The shells were broken in a crushing mill and then winnowed. The cocoa was then reduced to a soft paste in a cast-iron mortar, which was heated to between sixty and eighty degrees in advance, along with its pestle. As the beans were ground, sugar was added in equal parts.

A worker then flavoured the chocolate by adding vanilla, cinnamon and other ingredients dried on a heated plate and subjected to the action of some kind of motor. Once the mixture was thoroughly mixed, it was divided into 125 gram piles and placed in tin moulds. The moulds, placed on a wooden frame, began to dance automatically; the dough, as it cooled, spread out, shrank and came off as soon as the plate was turned over. The chocolate packet was ready. Charming young girls took it, wrapped a tin foil around the bar.

A few seconds later, a pile of bars was joined by a delicious package, covered with pink paper and wrapped in ribbons.

Chocolates from various houses were also on display in elegant glass cases for visitors to see.

Samples of chicory, of all qualities, were also on display in this class.

Sugar, which is currently processed in Belgium in 34 refineries, showed the importance of its manufacture symbolised by a bronze fame with its wings open, holding up a scroll on which one could read: "Sugar is indispensable for everyone".

This group dominated the exhibition of the Société technique et chimique de sucrerie de Belgique in Brussels.

In contrast to sugar, vinegar, which is so useful for the preparation of condiments and stimulants, was represented by 23 prominent members of the Collectivité des vinaigriers and by the individual displays of some important firms.

Finally, there were confectionery items, racahouts, coffees, coffees and jams, spices, peppers, cinnamons, vanilla, beautiful candied fruits, superior jams and popular jams.

All these products were grouped together in bottles, jars and packets of all shapes covered with multicoloured labels, arranged in various arrangements for the greatest pleasure of the eye.

Classes 60 (wines and wine spirits) and 61 (syrups and liqueurs, various spirits, industrial alcohols) had joined together to represent the Perron Liégeois with specimens of their products.

This idea, due to Mr. Maréchal-Mercier, the President of class 61, and carried out by the architect Paul Jaspar, was a happy original display. Indeed, the bases of the Perron, which narrowed to the earth ball covered by the cross, offered a succession of multicoloured and pleasantly translucent bottles, whose piles rested on shafts arranged to form the base of the monument.

Belgium, since the disappearance of the small wine from the coasts of the Meuse, is no longer a wine-producing country, but the consumption of this generous liquid is nonetheless very considerable and tends to increase more and more. In fact, imports, which reached 266,686 hectolitres in 1898, rose to 328,729 hectolitres in 1903.

The progress, as we can see, is very remarkable. Moreover, the Government, concerned to fight against the scourge of alcoholism, has applied itself to help, by fiscal measures, the popularisation in the country of the use of non-overalcoholic wine.

To this end, the excise duty, which used to amount to 23 francs per hectolitre, has been reduced to 20 francs per hectolitre for wines in circles.

Wines imported in casks, barrels, jugs and other such containers with a capacity of more than ten litres pay the same duty as wines imported in circles.

For the same purpose, the duty on bottled wines, which was 60 francs per hectolitre, has also been lowered to 20 francs per hectolitre for sterilised wine must, without alcohol and bottled, on the sole condition that the importer produces, in each case, a certificate from the manufacturer attesting that the liquid is completely free of alcohol.

Wines are admitted in Belgium under the public and private warehouse regime. They can therefore be mixed, cut, decanted, racked, etc.

It was the products of these various operations that the country's wine merchants exhibited in Liege.

The most diverse wines: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Moselle, Rhine, Madeira, Oporto, Malaga, Xeres, were on display alongside Champagnes, Muscat, Vermouth, red and white Huy wines, etc.

In the same group were the products of class 61, i.e. syrups and liqueurs including various spirits and industrial spirits.

It was around the time of the invention of distillation columns that Belgium began to take an interest in the manufacture of spirits. In 1832, Belgium produced 166,742 hectolitres of 56° alcohol annually; in 1901, 736,905 hectolitres were produced.

Of these, 670,025 hectolitres were consumed in the country, which meant a consumption of almost 10 litres per capita. But the increase in excise duty from 100 to 150 francs per hectolitre in 1901 caused production to fall back to 657,165 hectolitres in 1902 and 492,213 hectolitres in 1903.

At that date, the number of distilleries was 135; and the province of Antwerp, although having only 12 distilleries, was in the lead with 145,480 hectolitres.

The main raw materials used in the distilleries are maize, barley imported from abroad and molasses from the local sugar factories.

Nearly one hundred companies exhibited their products in Liege, which were very varied, from juniper spirits to elixirs, bitter, schiedam.

Two companies exhibited individually.

The rest of the exhibitors had grouped together to form the Collectivity of the alcohol and genever manufacturers, the others the Collectivity of the wine and spirits merchants. It would be impossible to list here the names of all the companies registered in these two groups.

However, in the first, we can mention Messrs Carbonelle, frères, of Tournai, Claes of Kermpt, Claeys-Fiévé of Ghent, Louis Meeus of Wyneghem, the Société anonyme "Le Lion d'Or" of Aalst, Messrs Dumont, frères, of Chassart, B. Springuel of Huy, Bal et Cie of Antwerp, Van Zuylen-Dodémont of Liège, Félix Wittouck of Leeuw-Saint-Pierre.

As for the group of wine and spirits merchants, it brought together the largest number of exhibitors; among these were the names of Messrs Bellefroid of Brussels, Bordet-Dassy of Liège, Bortels of Antwerp, Brias et Cie of Brussels, Carie frères of Brussels, the "Central Tienda" of Brussels, "Le Lynx" of Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, "La Grande Distillerie Belge" of Brussels, Beukelaer of Antwerp, Delhaize Ad. et Cie, Delhaize frères et Cie, of Brussels, Beaujean-Soetemans of Liège, M. Luc Marcette of Spa, Maréchal-Mercier of Liège, Notermans of Hasselt, Peyrot frères et Cie of Antwerp, Vanderschrieck frères of Brussels, Wodon-Merken of Liège.

Despite the importance of wine, spirits and liqueurs, beer is still the national drink in Belgium. From Ostend to Arlon, as well as from Brussels to Namur, it is beer that the good bourgeois drinks at the café; it appears on family tables; it flows in frothy streams at Flemish fairs, as well as at Walloon ducasses; over there, in Flanders, it is heavy, thick and syrupy. Here in Wallonia, it is light, frothy and bubbly, sparkling like Champagne.

It is easy to understand what an important place the Belgian brewery occupies in the national industry.

Beer production in 1903 exceeded 14 million hectolitres, i.e. a third more than in 1886. The number of breweries in 1903 was 3,319. By the end of 1904 this figure had risen to 3,336.

The present prosperous state of the industry is largely due to the changes in the Brewery Act since 1886. The new legislation provides for greater freedom in the work and has brought about considerable improvements in the plant and working system. The export of Belgian beers has also gradually developed; thanks to the creation of important outlets, a new field has opened up for the activity of the National Brewery, giving it the means to make serious progress and to draw great advantages from this new orientation.

The flours generally used by the brewery are those of malted barley, corn, rice, wheat and sometimes oats.

In the past, there were only two production processes used in Belgium. Only top-fermented beers were produced, which are the most consumed, and spontaneously fermented beers, which are mainly produced in and around Brussels.

In recent years, large factories have been set up to produce bottom-fermented beers, known as Austrian and German types. The beers produced by these newly established breweries compare favourably with those made abroad.

Strong beers of the English, ale and stout type are also produced in Belgium.

These few preliminaries give an idea of the importance that the Belgian Brewery Collective (class 62) assumed at the Exhibition.

Stalls covered with multicoloured, translucent bottles were everywhere.

The brewers had even installed a large tasting counter where the various beers of all the exhibiting companies were successively poured. On this enormous counter, served by courteous waitresses, the light poured out through the yellow, red and white stained glass windows of a large window depicting Bacchic scenes; and one had the impression of being in some temple built to a northern Bacchus god who, instead of vine branches, had crowned himself with hops.

The Brewery Community brought together the breweries of the various production centres of the country: Brussels, Liège, Namur, Arlon, Charleroi, Ghent, etc. 292 breweries took part in this triumphal exhibition of the national drink. It is therefore understandable that we are obliged not to name any of them for fear of omitting some of the most important ones, and that we are also prevented from naming them all for lack of space.

Class 62 (miscellaneous beverages) also included ciders, apple wines, yeasts, brewery specialities, health drinks, waters and carbonated lemonades.

A collection of Le Petit Journal du Brasseur completed the exhibition of the brewers' participation in class 62, the last of group X.

©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition Universelle de Liège 1905