2_4_DiscoverBenelux_13_Januar_2014_MADS_Scan Magazine 1 17/12/2014 15:20 Page 12
Galerie de la Reine, Neuhaus’s original store
B E L G I A N P R A L I N E S
A sweet but not so short history The tradition of chocolate and praline making in Belgium is a longstanding one, for which the Belgians are known around the world. A lesser-known fact is where and when pralines were invented and by whom. To answer these questions we first have to make a distinction: between the origin of the candy and the origin of the word. TEXT: SILVIA DE VRIES | PHOTOS: NEUHAUS WWW.NEUHAUS.BE
We’ve come to know chocolates with a soft or liquid filling as Belgian pralines. The origin of this type of candy dates back as far as 1857 when Brussels pharmacist Jean Neuhaus used chocolate to cover medicine and its bad taste. Fifty-five years later, in 1912, Neuhaus Jr. replaced the medicine with a more tasty filling and called the sweet a ‘praline’. At the time, the word ‘praline’ had actually been used for centuries already, to address another type of candy, namely sugarcoated almonds. Clement Lassagne, chef to the French Duke of Praslin, César
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Gabriel de Choiseul, decided to dip almonds in boiling sugar in 1636. When asked what this tasty sweet was called, he named it after his master: Praslin. Later on these sugared almonds became known as ‘pralines’. Back to Neuhaus Jr., who was a very clever man, with an equally clever wife. The first pralines were sold in a typical Belgian cone shaped bag, mainly used for fries. Obviously these were not fit to keep the delicate pralines safe and so Neuhaus Jr.’s wife designed a gift box, or ‘ballotin’, in which the pralines could be stored uni-
formly, safely and of course beautifully wrapped. The rest as they say, is history.
A culture of chocolate These days chocolate and chocolate making is part of the Belgium heritage. Unsurprisingly, on average Belgians eat 6 kilos of chocolate per person each year (according to the Royal Belgian Association of the Biscuit, Chocolate, Praline and Confectionary). Over the years pralines became a token of love, not very surprising as each piece is made by hand, or at least the true Belgian
Promoting Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg.