Last week we attended our first session of the Brussels Bookswappers club. In the past we used to get rid of books at a charity sale held in the carpark of a British supermarket on the outskirts of Brussels. We’d heard of the bookswappers, but it wasn’t until we happened to bump into one of the organisers at a party that we decided to give it a try.

It’s held once a month in a room above a pub in the trendy Châtelain area of Brussels. The idea is simple: you bring books you don’t want and leave them on the table. You take books you want home with you. Obviously within reason; you don’t bring one solitary, dog-eared paperback and make off with a box full of hardbacks. Or, as the club puts it: 

Roughly speaking, we trust that over the course of swapping books with us you will take away, on balance of numbers and value, what you put in.”

I’m progesssively getting more and more ruthless with our book collection, partly due to space constraints, and partly because I’m more and more able to look at a book and think “Did I like that one? Yes. Will I ever read it again? Probably not”. My wife is a little more clingy when it comes to books, but I managed to prise a few volumes from her fingers and we took them along.

We picked up a few volumes, had a drink, chatted to a couple of people, and re-browsed every time someone new turned up and left their contribution. I loitered near the relatively small non-fiction section as I think I’ve got quite enough fiction to be going on with for the moment. Good job I did. One of the advantages of this stuff being free as opposed to just dirt cheap is that you feel no qualms about picking up any old thing because it’s free and you can always just bring it back next month. So while I’d have hesitated if it meant parting with cash, I didn’t need any encouragement to pick up a free copy of a book called “Make a meal of cheese”.

Cheese is one of my favourite foodstuffs ever. Almost any food I can think of would be improved by adding cheese (melted, grated, whatever); so this was obviously the book for me.


The recipe below for “Italian Pasta” was something of an eye-opener. It’s certainly different to all that Scottish and German pasta I normally have, and the addition of crisps sprinkled on top is genius. I love Mediterranean cuisine.

The “Pancake Layer” photo is probably the most mouth-watering image in the whole book.

Curry! With Cheddar cheese! Brilliant!

This is what I used to imagine meatloaf looked like. I would eat anything for love, but I won’t eat that.

Finally, I’m not entirely sure how one would go about eating these “Party Pyramids”, but I’m sure it’d be entertaining (for any other people watching you, that is).

There. My culinary horizons were well and truly widened (the book contains suggestions utilising almost half a dozen different types of cheese!). I’ll be back at Bookswappers next month, that’s for sure.


15 thoughts on “Bookswap

  1. jagosaurus September 15, 2008 / 2:04 pm

    Cheese Hollow Loaf looks like something unholy.


  2. paola September 15, 2008 / 5:01 pm

    What I find really disturbing in the hollow loaf is the bit between the fillng and the bread: is that cheese? Or mustard? Or fat?
    I think I’ll just have to try out the recipe….


  3. Erik R. September 15, 2008 / 6:52 pm

    Yummy! The title’s a little misleading, though. With the exception of the fondue, none of these have cheese as the primary foodstuff of the meal.


  4. Helen D September 15, 2008 / 9:45 pm

    The filling in Cheese Hollow Loaf looks like Susie’s dinner! (for those who don’t know us, she is of the canine persuasion…)


  5. simonlitton September 16, 2008 / 6:53 am

    Paola: I think that’s bread that has soaked up the meat juice.

    Erik: This is just a selection from an 80-page book, but yes, most of the recipes simply include cheese as an ingredient. But what’s the alternative? A plate piled high with nothing but cheese?
    Actually, that sounds preferable.

    Helen: If Paola actually does try to make it I’ll bring a slice over for Susie next month.


  6. Erik R. September 16, 2008 / 9:09 pm

    I suppose this is what you’d like to see at your local grocer?


  7. Jim September 16, 2008 / 9:25 pm

    I think even Susie might spurn that one – feel free to bring a cheese curry though!


  8. Dallas September 20, 2008 / 8:57 pm

    The bookswap sounds pretty neat. Is it mostly English books or mostly French/Dutch?


  9. Di September 20, 2008 / 10:17 pm

    I may have drooled over the whole idea of a bookswap session. Sounds grand.


  10. simon September 21, 2008 / 7:45 am

    Dallas: mostly English, but there’s a small section for other languages too.


  11. paola September 22, 2008 / 12:15 pm

    Di, the next one is on 7th October, we can go together… We actually found out about it at one of your your parties!!


  12. sharon September 27, 2008 / 6:45 am

    the original owner of the book was clearly pretty keen on the cheddar curry recipe.. look at all the food stains on that page!


  13. Linda October 1, 2008 / 10:50 am

    Brilliant! The party pyramids had me laughing out loud.


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