Epiphany/Three Kings Day

We Three Kings

We Three Kings (Photo credit: pixieclipx)

Once again, I’m ashamed to say that I was in my late twenties before I ever even know this holiday existed (commemorating the day when the three kings presented their gifts to the baby Jesus).  Here’s how they celebrate it here.

P1060042

P1060042 (Photo credit: keepps)

You knew it. You knew there had to be one. You were right; they have a special pastry.   Every holiday here seems to have its own special pastry and this is not exception.  It is a ring of buns, one of which contains small plastic kings.  If you get that roll, you win a crown and the right to tell everyone what to do for the rest of the day.  Carolers dressed as three kings also roam the streets singing (known as Star Singing).

The bread ...

The bread … (Photo credit: pedro_cerqueira)

Who doesn’t love a great loaf of bread?  Before we moved, we would sometimes go to our neighborhood’s French bakery and buy a nice loaf of fresh bread.

Swiss bread and chocolate

Swiss bread and chocolate (Photo credit: ellengwallace)

Since we moved, we have been buying great bread at local patisseries.  It is made fresh each morning and we buy a loaf to eat over the next 2-3 days while  while it is still fresh.  Ymmmm.  This is dangerous because you have to go there several times a week (only a block away).  When it’s no longer really fresh, we feed it to the ducks on Lake Geneva (except for when our niece visited when we bought loaves to feed to them).

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Like Most Swiss Cuisine, The Valaisian Plate Is Definitely Not Vegan,

Visitors to Switzerland probably want to taste some authentic Swiss food.  For many, this means fondue.   It’s a great cold weather dish, but a bit harder to eat in the middle of summer.  The Valaisian Plate (Assiette Valaisanne in French and Bündnerfleisch  in German) is great in summer, but perfect when the weather turns. It is a savory plate of charcuterie and good choice year round.  Consisting of paper-thin slices of local dried meats such as salami, bacon, and/or dried beef it isn’t a vegetarian dish.  People order it as an appetizer or side.  Since it usually comes with bread on the side, I’ll order it as my main course (as it is usually an affordable option) in more casual restaurants.

Fondue In Switzerland = Cheesy, Gooey Goodness

If you come visit, expect to eat fondue.  Fondue restaurants are pervasive and even a non-cook like me can make fondue at home.  Our friends Pitbull and TNT came to visit and we had a fondue extravagaza.  Here’s how we made it:

  • Cut the bread into cubes of less than an inch. Some people like the bread a bit dry (to better absorb the cheese) and will use day old bread and/or cut it a few hours ahead.
  • Split a piece of garlic in two.  Rub the inside of the fondue pot it.
  • Pour a bit of white wine (preferably Swiss, it should be dry not sweet) in the bottom of the pot.
  • Pour the shredded cheese (see below for which ones) in the pot and stir.
  • Add more wine, bit by bit to ensure a smooth texture.  I find it helpful to leave a bit of cheese in reserve to add if the mixture becomes a bit thin and/or runny.
  • Stir the mixture so that the cheese melts and cooks evenly.
  • While you want the cheese to melt, you don’t want it to burn.  Check the temperature to make sure that it is not too hot.
  • Raise your glass, toast and begin eating.
  • While eating, adjust the heat so that the cheese stays at a constant temperature and does not overcook.

Eating fondue is easy.  The largest problem associated with eating fondue is overeating.  Put a small piece of bread on the fork/dipper/fondue skewer, stir it in the cheese and enjoy. Although I can’t help you with the overeating part, here are some tips and etiquette for eating fondue:

  • Even though you will want to pop the cheesy goodness right into your mouth, try to be patient and let the cheese drip/cool for a second.
  • To avoid sharing too many germs, people avoid touching their mouths to the fork/dipper/fondue skewer.
  • Drink only white wine or room temperature water while eating fondue to avoid indigestion.  You will thank yourself if you do this and curse yourself if you don’t.
  • If you lose your bread in the cheese, custom dictates that you buy the next round of drinks or be thrown in the lake (Lac Leman/Lake Geneva).  Given Geneva’s expensive prices, you may be in for a dunking in Geneva’s approximately 5 degree waters (41 Fahrenheit).  You were warned.
  • La religieuse (French for the nun) refers to the well-cooked remnants of cheese that stick to the bottom of the pot.  They are scraped out and eaten.  Yum.

The Swiss debate the best type of cheese fondue.  The most popular types include (in order of popularity):

Sometimes, a shot of Kirsh, tomatoes, peppers (red and green), or mushrooms will be placed in the cheese.  Of course, the French (Comté savoyard, Beaufort, and Emmental or just different types of Comté)  and Italians (Fontina, milk, eggs and truffles) have their own versions.

There is, apparently, a much larger world of fondue out there, just waiting to be discovered (and eaten).  Other types of fondue include:

  • Chocolate fondue, where pieces of fruit are dipped into a melted chocolate mixture,
  • Fondue bourguignonne, where pieces of meat are cooked in hot oil
  • Fondue chinoise, a hot pot, where pieces of meat are cooked in broth.

Although it will be burdensome, we will do the research and report back.

2011 By The Numbers

999      A conservative estimate on the number of times we have been lost (or at least taken wrong turns).

998      Pots of yummy, Swiss yogurt eaten.  I know that this number is a bit low.  We found the world’s best cottage cheese a couple of months in.  It definitely hurt our yogurt consumption.  We will try to do better next year.

45        The number of dollars paid in speeding tickets.  Astoundingly, we have gotten fewer tickets than anyone we know.  We were “lucky” enough to get ours in France so we paid it in Euros, much cheaper than tickets in CHF‘s.

40        Number (more or less) of cute pairs of heels in my closet here that have gone unworn due to large amounts of walking and heel eating cobblestones.   What has happened to me?

30        Roughly, the number of times I have been honked at while driving.  This works out to more or less one honk per drive.  Not too shabby.

17        Number of languages we can watch tv  in.  They are: French, German, Italian, English, Spanish, Catalan, Galician, Portuguese, Turkish, Serbian, Bosnian, Albanian, Arabic, Dutch, Russian, Mandarin and Thai.  Unfortunately, we can only understand 1 or  2 of these.

15       The approximate number of emails he receives when I post pictures of him in      “fashionable” attire.  I get calls saying “what did you post about me because my email is blowing up”.

13       British TV Shows viewed (don’t judge): Top GearGrand DesignsWallace and GromitSnog Marry AvoidTake Me OutHow Clean Is Your House (it is extremely motivational to put on while cleaning), Horrible HistoriesGok’s Fashion Fix/Gok’s Clothes RoadshowSherlock (fantastic, a must see), Doctor WhoJamie’s Great BritianTime TeamHistory of Ancient Britain (History of Britain is better).  We did not watch the royal wedding even though there is still excessive coverage of it on British TV.

12        Countries Visited: DenmarkSwedenSpainFranceEngland, Scotland  (him), Germany (him), Belgium (me), Switzerland, South Africa, Egypt, and the United States.

11        The number of hours our jet lagged, germ filled bodies slept upon returning to Switzerland (this was followed by several lengthy naps and another long night’s sleep).

10        Tours (KarlsburgBurgundyCheese FactoryCailler Chocolate Factory,  Underground LakeTour of LondonToledo, Cullian Diamond Mine, Nelson Mandela’s Home, Soweto, unsure if safari’s count as an official tour.

9         “Exotic” foods we have eaten: bugs (South Africa), pigeon (England), crocodile (South Africa), horse (at home purchased from the local grocery store), gelatinized foie gras (France – definitely worse than the bugs), ostrich (South Africa), snails (France, bien sur), wild boar (Switzerland), quail (Spain) and duck (France).

8          The number of times he has taken the wrong train, tram or bus to and/or home from work.

7          The approximate number of times I grocery shop in a week (this includes visits to the Patisserie to buy bread).  Before our move, I prided myself on being able to get by for almost two weeks on one shopping trip.  Now that I carry everything home (and therefore buy less at a time), look for sales all over and try to buy the freshest, I have septupled my trips. Craziness.

6(ish)   Fantastic, Unforgettable, Once in A Lifetime Hikes in Switzerland: Gruyeres Cheesemaker’s Path, La Salevethe MatterhornJungfrauLavaux, many around Geneva.

5         Meals eaten out at Geneva restaurants since we moved (due to their high cost and our unwillingness to bankrupt ourselves).

4          The number of snow tires that are currently on our car (also the number of regular tires currently in storage).  Anyone ever heard of all season tires?

3          Family members who have visited; also the number of times the washing machine repairman has visited our miniscule washer.

2          Dogs given away (and are very happy with their new families)

1          Bridge jumpaerobed destroyed, and container shipped to Switzerland.




 

Braai

While in South Africa (at Bongwe), we attended a few Braai (barbecues).  They are a South African institution with its own etiquette that stretches across ethnic and class lines.  Since Christmas is in their summer, their traditional Christmas dinner is a Braai!  They are also have them regularly as get-togethers, weekend dinners, the preferred means of celebrating South African Heritage DayBraai Day and for visitors like us.
You can use almost any kind of meat.  Locals do it as a sort of potluck with BYOM (bring your own meat).  The meats are a bit more exotic than you find at a typical US barbecue. Common ones include: lamb, steak, chicken, ostrich, gemsbock, springbock and ducks!
This twist, using Coca-Cola, on Beer Can Chicken may look familiar to many Americans.  Other popular Braai dishes include:
  • Droewars, a dried sausage eaten on the Great Trek
  • Potbrod, bread baked over coals. It’s kind of like a biscuit, but less sweet and toasted.  It’s delicious.

  • Melktert, a milk based dessert, not too different from cheesecake