Monday, November 16, 2009

How the Swiss Eat

I’m not referring to physically how; they eat with utensils just like everybody else, although they do eat with their fork upside down in that veddy British way.  I’m referring to the mindset of eating over here.  They eat according to what is in season.  Take, for example, this week.  I just found out today that it is now “Metzgete” Time and everyone is really excited.  This basically means all of the restaurants and all of the many, many festivals will be featuring pig and all it’s trimmin’s.  Not yummy trimmin’s like applesauce or sweet potatoes.  No, no, no.  I mean trimmin’s as in utilizing all of those odd bits and bobs of pork that us wasteful North Americans feed to Mr. Garbage Disposal.  Their favorite is blutwurst.  (It means blood sausage.)  Just saying it makes me gag, nevermind eating it.  Here is a picture of a typical Metzgete platter:

Yum!  Notice the poor forgotten tomato and zucchini slice tucked under the pigs’ trotters.  Those are the only vegetables, folks.  You can go months in Switzerland without seeing a veg.  The Swiss think a few lettuce leaves and potatoes done 381 ways count as vegetables.  Whenever Mr. Big and I see a side of vegetables listed on the menu, we order it because we never know when we are going to see another one.

The changing of the seasonal foods is a Very Big Deal.  Restaurant menus change and they announce it in large letters on their chalkboard sidewalk signs.  People want to know when, as in what day, these special foods will arrive at the markets.  The street markets become crazy around the farmer’s booth who is the first to pick his WHATEVER.  OK, lady, step away from the peaches.  There are plenty to go around.  That’s it, Lady!  Back off!  No peaches for you today!

This is what took me awhile to understand.  There is such a frenzy because it’s like Cadbury Chocolate Easter Eggs.  Once they’re gone, they’re gone.  If it’s out of season, it ain’t happenin’.  So, you really like that watermelon?  Well, you better gorge yourself, because we don’t believe in importing any foods and you will not see another watermelon until next July.  Sorry.

I didn’t take any of this personally until they stopped selling my favorite rose wine, (that “e” should have an accent over it, but I only have a dumb American keyboard—it’s pronounced ro-zay).  See, in Europe, pink wine is called rose and it is a perfectly legitimate thing to order.  It is very dry and refreshing and doesn’t give me a red wine headache.  It is not that crap sweet White Zinfandel that they sell in the states.  It is, in a word, delicious.  So, I go to the market one day in October to get the stuff for dinner and a bottle of my local rose wine and it’s not there.  Not only is the one I like from a town up the hill gone, THERE’S NOT ANOTHER BOTTLE OF ROSE WINE on the shelves.  I thought I was in the Twilight Zone.  Like, only yesterday there were cases of the stuff in this exact same store.  Sold.  Gone.  I must wait until next year to have it again.  I had to channel my newfound Europeaness in order to remain calm and not demand to see the manager.    Ahh, but I learned, you see.  Next year, when it is in season, I will buy it by the case and hoard it all winter like a friggin’ squirrel.

Other seasonal foods which are here and gone are dent de lion salade, (dandelion greens), white asparagus, Valencia oranges, wild game including goat and horse and kurbis (squash) soup.  I can’t say that I will miss the goat.


  1. Nice to finally get the info on how to follow your many activities. You are hilarious! I will miss just a chatty note from you once in awhile in my email box. Aunt Sharon

  2. I made few laughs of course, but well I consider positively the swiss attitude to preserve their products and environment: importing out of season products means higher prices and more pollution, more than that I prefer to eat zucchini and tomatoes in summer when they can grow at the sun. I don't like tomatoes grown up with fake light and all the same shape and tasteless! With reference to rose wine, just keep in mind that sometimes it's mix of white and red wine, so you probably want to buy a good white, maybe a french one. Plus, the production of wine in Switzerland only covers not even 1/3 of the total swiss consumption.... I really suggest you to go for french or italian wines, they are better in taste and quality and Italy and France are right across the border. Good luck!