Inventor of Frikrol: “The trick was to get from a square block to a round ball” (Zandhoven)

Enter ‘Frikrol’ as a keyword on Google and you will come to many nostalgic websites. Oddly enough: especially from the Dutch. “There’s a soup ball machine for the lazy ball spinner,” the blog reports Ministry of Food and Beverageswhich points to the culinary added value of the self-rolled ball.

“Today came a free roll from the seventies,” reports a sales site. “Who does not know him?” the ‘seventies’ is an exaggeration, because the device has only existed since 1988. We also came across the following Facebook conversation: “But how practical is this! A soup bowl machine. Have had this device for 30 years, works perfectly. I’m looking for someone else for my grandson, ”says one Chris. To which Yvonne replies: “Does anyone still have one for sale? I have been looking for this for several years. ”

Ball turner Jules Verbert is happy to hear that his ‘handy kitchen accessories’ have not yet been forgotten. He still lives in the same house where we interviewed him at the time, and he looks exactly alike. During our visit, he put all his inventions on the table, and we notice how small Frikrol’s box is. In our memory, it was a much larger device.

“At that time, I was following a course at PIVA’s predecessor in Antwerp, so I was trained as a chef and baker,” Frikrol’s father begins. “In the eighties, I worked in the world of ice cream and chocolate in Westmalle. But I had also been a chef at the Rehabilitation Center, the former Preventorium, in Pulderbos, where I rolled a lot of balls. An inventor is someone who dares to question everything. It should go faster, right? So I figured out a device to roll 24 balls at once. The trick was to go from square blocks to round balls. It is also for the process that I applied for my patent. A patent or patent is a protection of creativity. “

Prototypes

At home, he made prototypes, including aluminum. The final Frikrol was made of plastic, just like Millecroquettes. Whether he was inspired by the famous croquet machine, an invention of the Antwerp resident Gaspard Thienpont? “No, but I asked his son for advice on the packaging. The graphic design and printing was done by the same company as Millecroquettes.”

Jules Verbert among his inventions. © koen fasseur

The meatball was aimed at small meatballs for soups or sauces, not meatballs for the meatball with cherries. Jules went to trade fairs to present his unique device and also had a commercial made. It included an enthusiastic protester as the face of Frikrol. “Very impressive: Someone I knew through-via told me about a Mieke Sergeant who has just graduated or is still studying at Studio Herman Teirlinck, and according to him an enormous talent. He was right, for she later became famous as Ingeborg Ingeborg rolled balls with our Frikrol in the demo video. Some got it under control immediately, like Ingeborg, others could not work with it. Much had to do with the meat composition. I had a basic recipe on the package, with 75 grams of rasp, 1 egg, nutmeg , pepper and salt for 250 grams of minced meat. Rolling with Frikrol is best done ten minutes after processing. But some people did not use rasp or put milk in the mince. Then it becomes too sticky and failed. Later Ingeborg lived here in our street in Pulderbos for a time. Koen Wauters sometimes spent the night there while doing his military service in Turnhout and did not return to Brussels. “

helicopter controlled

There is still a dramatic story attached to that commercial. “So it was five cool men who made that film with Ingeborg and my Frikrol. But shortly afterwards, they all died in an accident, killed in a helicopter crash in Antwerp. If I remember correctly, the pilot hit something with his knives, wanted to make an emergency landing, but he hit a railway with a piece of metal and they got an electric shock. A terrible drama. These men also had the mother band for Frikrol’s demo film in their possession. Eventually I was able to find it somewhere in the center of Antwerp, and I was still able to use that film with Ingeborg for promotion. ”

Frikrol.  At the top, press and cut the minced meat.

Frikrol. At the top, press and cut the minced meat.

Because it is almost impossible to apply for a European patent, Jules applied for a Belgian patent. He produced Frikrol at a company in Antwerp. But something went wrong. A kind of imperishable material was used, which was also used in space travel, which pushed up the production price. “I almost won the first prize at the Trade Mart Utrecht trade fair. Blocks would share Frikrol. It could have been a hit. But the price was too high. I think a Frikrol cost about 700 Belgian francs at the time. Of course it is too expensive. Blocks could not distribute it at that price. Beware: I had customers. Thousands were made, but Frikrolen could have been so much bigger if the production price had been more reasonable. Afterwards, the form (the form) that I owned was lost. ”

Walter Capiau

There have been times when Frikrol marched fantastically. “A lot was sold in the Netherlands. And once around the New Year period, Walter Capiau showed Frikrol in his well-known game show Higher lower at BRT. All Flemings watched Higher lower† The effect of television was enormous. I think the Frikrolen was sitting in a prize carriage, and Capiau said: look, something practical to make meatballs! Just one sentence gave Frikrolen a huge boost. By the way, we still get calls every year around the end of the year from people who are looking for a Frikrol when they have to roll fresh balls for vol-au-vent or soup for the parties. ”

Soup balls from the free roll are small in size.

Soup balls from the free roll are small in size. © kma

Jules Verbert tells it all easily, without bitterness. Was his idea ever copied? “No, after that the automatic meatball machines came pretty quickly. And nowadays, people buy their frozen balls in bags in the supermarket. Even I still use Frikrol weekly. It remains an ingenious system. I would be a fool not to use it if I invented something like that myself! “

“I thought it could be something for Africa,” Jules says of his slippers. © rr

Pulderbossenaar made other special inventions, such as the Spanish charclas, a kind of compact string sandal with a punched heel strap at the back and a lip to pierce the big toe, made of plastic. “The production price was very low. I thought it might be something for Africa or something useful for the pool or the beach.”

Another handy thing: Tie-Fix, to prevent the tie from fluttering. “But people don’t wear ties anymore,” Jules says. He was able to sell Flowers Suprise, to make floral constructions around a plastic straw. That invention did well in the toy and hobby shop and is just a lot of fun. ‘But I did not take out a patent on the latter inventions, but a registration certificate. I also invented straws to lie down and drink. I got it produced in Hong Kong. ”

In his wonderful years, Jules was part of the inventor collective Brainbank, with Dirk Laureyssens from Zoersel as one of the driving forces. “My friends are all dead in the meantime, pretty young. I’m the only one left. I was a bit of a creative thinker, while Dirk was very good at writing patents and designing things. Dirk was younger than me. He died last year in “A nursing home here in Pulderbos. I miss him. He kept thinking things through until the end. For example, I remember he was still working on the adjustable dice, where you could increase the number of spots with a pressure system.”

There is a smile on his face as he remembers all their crazy blows. “I once invented a tab so you could close your can again. But the beverage manufacturers were not interested because they wanted the beverage to deteriorate in the can after opening, so people open a new can faster. I had rather devised that system against The insects. More finds: a stool with a shock absorber to protect the shoulders. Or the sweaty foot powder Sweet Feet. I still have bags with it, and yet it worked super efficiently. “

An article from January 1988.

An article from January 1988. © rr

Funnel

With one anecdote, Jules must shake his stomach with laughter. That’s why it’s funny, outright nonsense. “Together with Dirk, I had developed such a kind of spiral structure to stick in a funnel, so that the water ran out faster. We had tested this thoroughly at home with funnels from Curver. Dirk had made a whole drawing of it, and we had made an appointment with Curver in Holland to present our invention. The Dutch listened with great interest while we demonstrated everything. In the evening at home we were still enjoying it when my wife suddenly noticed that one funnel ‘teut’ was much larger than the other. Both funnels were the same size, but the openings at the bottom were different! It is logical that the water drained much faster from the funnel with the largest spout. We almost shit in our pants of laughter. No, we did not hear anything from Curver afterwards, although to this day I think the Dutch were not aware of it either. “

The Crown Jewel, Frikrol.

The Crown Jewel, Frikrol. © kma

The Crown Jewel, Frikrol.

The Crown Jewel, Frikrol. © kma

Frikrol.

Frikrol. © kma

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