Belgians have their chip wrapper and eat it

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A TECHNOLOGICAL breakthrough that was revealed yesterday looks set to rid Belgium of the sticky-finger problem that has for decades undermined morale and sapped the spirit of a nation.

On every street corner, in every village square, on stations and near the cinema stands the friterie - supplier of chips. Belgians do not eat fish and chips, and munch moules and chips only when they are sitting down. The most popular form of the national dish is the chip au naturel. They are served heaped in a flat plastic box or in a paper cornet and come with a variety of exotically named sauces which all taste like mayonnaise and, to the untrained palate, are indistinguishable but for the colour which ranges from a violent red through orangey brown to pale yellow.

Unlike vinegar a note of warning: never ask for vinegar - a Belgian will think you mad), the sauce is too thick to penetrate the lower layer and the only option is to dunk the chip in the sauce. It is impossible, particularly when eating from a paper cornet, to do this without getting very messy. If you can't find the friterie just follow the chain of strewn paper and discarded cornets.

Belgium, always on the cutting-edge of chip technology, has solved the problem: edible wrapping. Patrick, who is now so famous that he has dispensed with a last name, has become a national hero as the man who first thought of serving chips in an ice-cream cornet.

The man was not inspired by fame or fortune, though he is now promised both, but by a concern for the environment.

The Belgian government has plans to tax plastic packaging and Patrick, fearing paper products would be the next target, strove to find an alternative. He only had to look to Germany where the slightly salted ice-cream-type cornets are already popular. His Flemish friterie is thriving as never before and Patrick has even been interviewed by French television. And a Belgian newspaper has joined the campaign with enthusiasm. It recommends if a consumer does not want to eat the cornet, it can be fed to the nearest hungry dog.

But Patrick has not quite cornered the market - there is still potential for a Briton brave enough to bring the chip-butty to Belgium.