It's finally Summer in Belgium! Everywhere people heave a sigh of relief. After a hard Winter and a lousy Spring, the sun has found her way to our country. And what Belgians love to do when it's good weather? They love to be in traffic jams...euh they love to go to the Belgian coast, which is a 65 kilometre long stretch of sandy coastline and has 15 resorts, each with its own character and unique atmosphere.
Also Belgian beaches have quirky habits. When you're relaxing on your beach towel, you'll most likely hear somebody yellin' "Bouuuullllllllllessss de Berlinnnn". Don't be afraid, you don't have to evacuate the beach, the guy with the yellow box on his hat is just selling Boules de Berlin or Berliners, a kind of doughnut (without a hole in the middle) made from sweet yeast dough fried in fat or oil, with a marmalade or pastry cream filling (or both) and usually icing, powdered sugar or conventional sugar on top.
According to the legend, it was invented in 1756 by a Berlin pastry chef who wanted to join the army of Frederick the Great as a cannoneer. Eventually he was recruited in the army but as a...pastry chef. To give himself a kind of 'cannoneer feeling' he created the Berliner.
This is not a recent phenomenon, the Boules de Berlin have a whole history behind them. Already on May 22nd 1905, Rodolphe Dies from Brussels got the permission to sell Boules de Berlin on the beach. Why he wanted to sell them? Nobody knows! Maybe Belgians have something with balls (think of the Atomium and the famous Belgian billiar balls After the First World War the name of Boules de Berlin was changed to Boules de l'Yser, referring to the river Ijzer (or Yser in French). Nowadays everybody is talking about Boules de Berlin again but there's a clear difference between the two: the Boule the Berlin is sprinkled with caster sugar and filled with jam or marmelade while the Boules de l'Yser are filled with pastry cream and sprinkled with icing sugar (the I Love Belgium team already ate them injected with pastry cream and marmelade at the same time too).
The street vendors are mostly students and it's one of the hardest Summer jobs around since they have to carry a heavy wooden box on their head or a wooden tray hanging around their shoulders which they have to carry all along the beach during hot Summer days. So give these guys a break and indulge in one of these Boules when you're on the beach, one won't ruin your swimsuit figure.