Smoked Nuts

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

The leading Flemish daily De Standaard brings curious news today about a fire last night that broke out in a peanut-processing factory in the town of Sint Maartensdijk. The main damage: 200 tons of savory, crunchy raw material. (No person was injured.) What’s curious here is that, according to the fire department spokesman, burning peanuts are particularly tricky to extinguish. That’s because they burn very slowly, so it takes time to be sure that they’re completely out, i.e. that there’s no remaining bit of fire that can get to work on any near-by unburned material to get going again. So the process generally takes two or three days, and the first step involves spreading the burning peanuts out over a large surface to in fact starve the burning parts of any more fuel.

Another notable issue about this report is why it happens to appear in a Flemish (i.e. Belgian) newspaper. That’s not just a macadamic question, since Sint Maartensdijk itself is in the Netherlands, not in Belgium. Now, it’s true that the town is down in the southern part of the Netherlands, only a little over 20 km from the Belgian border, so you might speculate that what set the Flemish reporters off running was that mysterious, delicious smell of roasted peanuts detected by residents of those border regions. But no, the article explicitly notes that “[t]he surrounding area was little disturbed by the fire. There was little wind, so most of the smoke went directly upwards.”

All I can conclude here, for now, is that De Standaard has simply confirmed its reputation as Dutch-speaking Belgium’s premier newspaper with another demonstration of the comprehensiveness of its coverage of notable, and even semi-notable, public events. It’s also true that there has been no coverage of this incident yet that I can find from the Dutch press – i.e. that of the country where the fire actually took place – but that fact is easy to explain: it happened Saturday night and, out of long-standing (Calvinist) custom, Dutch newspapers simply do not publish on Sundays.

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