Night at the Opera

Share this post

By Heidi Lewis

August 25, 1830, at the Royal Theatre of the Mint in Brussels was an evening to remember. Famous tenor Adolphe Nourrit was belting out the stirring duet from the opera La Muette de Portici (The Mute Girl of Portici) about the “sacred love of the Fatherland,” which incited an already politically charged audience to riot. Belgians hit the streets where they sought and won independence from the Netherlands in an ensuing war. In 1871, Richard Wagner remarked about the opera: “Seldom has an artistic product stood in closer connection with a world event.”

War changes everything. Big things, but also little things. Jan Lammers, a Belgian farmer, returned to his farm after fighting in the 1830 revolution. He checked on his root cellar where he’d kept a stash of chicory and found it had blossomed in the dark into witloof (white leaf). Chicory is a wild leafy plant that has multiple uses; it was the root, however, that was cultivated by 19th century European citizens as a coffee substitute necessitated by Napoleon’s coffee embargo. Lammers’ discovery of tender tasty leaves that grow in the dark launched Belgian endive into Parisian culinary stardom.

The wonderful chicory family (Cichorium endivia) includes an array of sophisticated flavors: red, white, and curly endive; escarole; frisée; tardivo; and radicchio. Eaten raw, it’s mildly bitter with a sweet aftertaste, or it can be tamed to sweet by light cooking. Endive offers many taste and texture combinations. Try the leaves with a strong cheese like gorgonzola along with roasted walnuts and sliced pear. You can also use the sturdy endive leaf as an edible spoon to thoroughly enjoy herb dips and spreads—as the French would say, “Ne pas y aller avec le dos de la cuillí¨re!”—which literally translates to “not going at it with the back of the spoon” (in other words, not being timid in your approach).

Preparation: Cut the root end off, separate leaves, and shred, slice, or use whole. Use raw or braise or grill lightly.

Storage: It’s a good thing the light in the fridge goes off when you close the door, Endive likes it dark. Keep leaves tightly wrapped in a damp towel and use within three days.


Subscribe to the WEEKLY BITE

* indicates required


Recent Food articles:

History of the tomato
April 18, 2019
How to prepare Ataulfo mango
April 4, 2019
Making the most of citrus season
February 14, 2019
Three hearty soup recipes you can enjoy all month
February 4, 2019
Tempting winter fruits to brighten your weekly mix
January 31, 2019
Easy meal prep recipes you can eat all week
January 7, 2019
How to make latkes and applesauce
December 6, 2018
The food history of Thanksgiving
November 22, 2018
Winter and summer oranges
August 23, 2018
How to make vegetarian sushi at home
August 7, 2018

More recent articles:

Quick, easy steps to spruce up your office space
May 14, 2019
Grilled portobello recipe
May 9, 2019
How to prepare physically and mentally for race day
May 9, 2019
Three simple ways to enjoy watermelon radishes
May 2, 2019
Beehives, swales, and vermicomposting, oh my!
April 29, 2019
Easy spring salad recipe
April 25, 2019
Reduce plastic use with these earth-friendly alternatives
April 22, 2019
Spring fruit varieties and how to enjoy them
April 16, 2019
How to make sure you’re getting enough iron in your diet
April 11, 2019
How fostering psychological safety increases performance
April 8, 2019

About Us

Our online magazine offers a taste of workplace culture, trends, and healthy living. It features recipes for easy, delicious work meals and tips on quick office workouts. It's also an opportunity to learn about our GoodWorks program, which helps those in need in our communities and supports small, sustainable farms.