We believe the best advice about a destination, comes from local people, not guidebooks. We also believe one of the keys to adjusting to expat life quickly is meeting new people. Now, you can do both, in a fun (and yummy) way, through Bookalokal.
At its simplest, Bookalokal brings people together over food. Through the Bookalokal website, hosts register to serve a meal in their home, for a fee of their choosing, and guests sign up to eat. What makes it special, however, is the sharing of knowledge and culture, over a home-cooked meal. We think that’s a great thing.
Back in December, Andrew and I participated in our first Bookalokal event. Our hosts were American expat in Brussels, Evelyne White, Bookalokal’s creator, and her chief evangelist, Portuguese expat, Rui Meneses. The event was an intimate dinner for the four of us, in Evelyne’s lovely apartment.
Of course, Andrew and I wanted to know all about Bookalokal and Evelyne was happy to share her story. But as conversations among expats in Brussels often do, it soon turned to our favourite places to eat. Even after 8 years in Belgium, we still picked up some great tips from our hosts, and shared some of our secret spots with them.
Over salmon tartar and a gorgeous chicken dish, we learned about Bookalokal’s expansion into the USA. You can attend events from California to New Jersey. We also discussed its early success in Brussels and the different way hosts are using the website to create unique events.
Andrew and I were intrigued by the possibilities and checked out the website back at our flat: Belgians were hosting beer and food tastings, expats were hosting cooking classes of their native cuisines and of course there were dinners with flavours from the four corners of the world. This was definitely something we’d be keeping our eyes on.
And that’s how, this past weekend, we ended up in a room full of people, dressed as hippies, trying to solve a murder. (Don’t worry; the only thing that died was the chicken we ate for dinner.)
About a month ago, Andrew asked if I’d be interested in going to a Murder Mystery Dinner, organised through Bookalokal. When I heard the host was Maxine, of the fantastic Belgian foodie blog, Why I Am Not Skinny, I jumped at the chance. Maxine and I had chatted on Twitter, and we share a passion for food in Brussels, so I knew we’d hit it off.
A few weeks before our event, we received some information about our mystery:
Groovy, baby. It’s 1967, and England still swings like a pendulum does. And you’re spending the weekend with some of the brightest faces in Britain at the Chelsea home of Lord Michael Jagged. What could be more hip and happening?
Andrew was to play Terence Shrimp, a camp photographer (yes, he was responsible for the photos this time!) and I was Mary-Jane Faithless, the glamorous pop-star. We raided our closets for some rather ridiculous costumes and set off for Ixelles.
Arriving at Maxine’s flat, we were soon joined by the other characters. In real life, we were a mixed bag of expats: two South Africans, three Canadians, a Portuguese, a few English and even a Belgian from Liege.
Well, it turned out poor Lord Michael ended up dead and one of us had done it. Between courses of Maxine’s delicious cooking, we examined clues, questioned each other, and played our roles. It was great fun.
I won’t give away who the murderer was, in the end, but I will say it was a great way to break the ice, act a little silly and meet some great new people. (And did I mention Maxine’s Oreo Cheesecake?)
In the end, both the intimate dinner we had with Evelyne and Rui and Maxine’s Murder Mystery party, achieved Bookalokal’s goals – bringing people together over food, to share different cultures and local knowledge.
Like us, you don’t have to be new in town to benefit from a Bookalokal event. It’s always good to expand your circle of friends and insider knowledge. With the variety of expats hosting you can discover cuisines from Malaysia to Mexico. Or you can sign up to be a host, and share your own culture and talents in the kitchen.
If you are new in Brussels, what better way to meet people and learn about the city, than over a great meal, with like-minded people? You’ll be sure to learn about places that aren’t listed in any guidebooks.
We want to extend huge thanks to both Evelyne and Maxine for hosting us with such warmth and hospitality, not to mention great food. We will definitely be Bookalokal regulars.