Archive for May, 2010

We were recently invited to a friend’s house for a traditional Swiss Raclette dinner. Although I had never heard of such a thing before moving here, I can honestly say that I will be promptly buying my own Raclette machine. Yes, a machine. Just like the traditional fondue has its own appliance, so does Raclette. In fact, most every traditional Swiss dish I can think of has its own appliance of some sort.

Of course, there’s Fondue and the Fondue Pot:

No fancy dipping accompaniments with the traditional Swiss Fondue...just chunks of white bread...and cheese.

In NA, we love our chocolate fondues, but in Switzerland, it's always about the cheese...and more cheese...and well, more cheese.

Spätzli (pronounced “sh-paht-zlee”) and the Spätzli Pan:

Spätzli (also known in other countries as Spätzle, Spaetzli, Spaetzle) is an egg noodle typically prepared like pasta.

You put the batter on the pan and then using the scraper, work it back and forth so the dough shoves through the holes in the pan and drops into the hot oil below.

Even Swiss Tupperware has its own Spätzli device!

Rösti (pronounced “rah-shtee”) can be easily made in a typical frying pan but it’s common to have a Rösti double-pan for easy flipping (yet to see that in action):

Rösti is just shredded potatoes. But instead of having them for breakfast (like we would have hashbrowns), this is a *dinner* side dish.

Using a double-sided pan (also known as a frittata pan) allows you to cook both sides of the Rösti without having to flip the potatoes onto a plate and then back into the pan.

And the glorious, oh-so-yummy and guilt-inducing Raclette Grill:

It's sort of like fondue in the sense that it's melted cheese, but it's not as pungent as fondue cheese...and once it's melted, you scrape it on top of all your grilled veggies.

During winter festivals, street vendors sell Raclette just like this...scraped right off a big block of it. To. Die. For. Literally, this stuff has gotta be bad for your arteries.

And now for some (iPhone) photos of our own Raclette experience with Rahel and Jonas, our lovely Swiss friends!

Warming up the grill! The little handles are individual grill plates for your own piece of cheese. You keep your own just like you would keep your own fondue stick.

Mmmmmm....bubbling cheese...

I love Liam's face in this one...he's not so sure about this scraped cheese thing...

Starchy potatoes slathered in fatty cheese...somehow, in a European diet, it's all good.

This morning, we had these same friends over for a “Canadian breakfast”…whatever that is!  Because they are vegetarians, we were fairly limited (bacon, sausage, ham…you know, the Canadian staples) so instead, I came up with french toast drenched in maple syrup, cinnamon buns, fresh fruit and hashbrowns.  The hashbrowns died an unfortunate death so we ended up having a breakfast that consisted entirely of bread, sugar and icing…with a little bit of pineapple in there somewhere.

My favourite "Clone of a Cinnabon" recipe. Our Swiss friends have never had cream cheese icing and of course, brown sugar is NOT available here...anywhere. So these were a very foreign treat!


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Grocery Shopping in France + iPhone Translator FAIL = Yet Another Expat Moment

Living in Europe is full of amazing adventures (wait until you see Tim’s coming blog on the latest and greatest castle we…uh, stumbled upon…) but it’s also full of frustrating day-to-day challenges.  Being an expat in a foreign culture has been known to draw out a side of yourself you didn’t know you had and at times, can even totally alter your personality.  I find myself being shy and quiet when I’m out and about (…say WHAT?!…) simply because I don’t know the language or the culture well enough to be my usual outgoing, gregarious self. I’m not sure if that’s such a bad thing (you were thinking it too, let’s be honest) but it is rather unfortunate when you can’t take part in the comical conversation in the line-up at the bakery or even strike up some friendly chit-chat with the check-out girl at the grocery store. 

And yet even if you successfully avoid those common interactions with a vocabulary of, oh…twenty words…you still get hammered every once in a while, just to make sure you’re not getting cocky. Today, I was humbled (again) by the ongoing culprit of grocery shopping…

Gets me every time…

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There are certain things that we absolutely love about Europe and other things we could do without.  But not a day goes by without some sort of culture shock moment where you realize how extremely far you really are from “home”.  I find myself shaking my head a lot here — sometimes I’m shaking it in wonder, other times in disbelief.

Last night Tim had a group of friends over and this morning, as we cleaned up the kitchen, I washed out the massive 2L drink bottles the boys left behind. It made me think about the popular drinks here in Switzerland.  Considering the über-healthy eating habits of the locals, it’s surprising to realize that their go-to beverage choices are all absolute garbage…and this, coming from the North American (who eats four single-serving portions in every meal and coats everything in refined sugar, didn’t you know?!).

If you walk into a Swiss grocery store, you’ll notice that they have 1/10th of the selection we have in NA and not nearly as much processed crap.  But their beverage sections are just as large as ours — turns out they have plenty of guilty pleasures in liquid form.

The only department that might actually have a larger selection than us would be their chocolate aisle…and well, that makes perfect sense. And believe me, the top-of-the-line chocolate in a North American store is equivalent to the no-name budget garbage they sell here. Yeah, I’m bragging.

The "Swiss Chocolate Aisle" in a local grocery store.

Anyway, back to beverages.  Many of you have said that you enjoy hearing about the day-to-day life of the Swiss culture. So for this post, I will showcase the Top Five Swiss Beverages.


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As the sun (otherwise known as “mysterious yellow ball in the sky”) finally decides to make an appearance here in Basel, we’ve been taking full advantage of the nicer weather in an attempt to tire the boys out (didn’t work).

Of course, since we’re Canadian, the boys were born with hockey sticks in hand (at least that’s what the Swiss seem to think!) and they’re proving to be naturals. Jack has a mean slap shot and Liam is an intuitive goaltender. Tim is actually crying in all these photos.

Our little Sedin's...minus the playoff beards.

Don't worry Liam -- just blame it on the faulty...uh...shopping cart...??

Coach Dad gives the goalie a pep talk.

Woops! In the penalty box for high sticking.

It’s football season here in Europe and the whole place is already getting cuckoo for the World Cup (coming to South Africa in June).  Locally, the FC Basel team just won the Swiss Cup tonight after a 6-0 whooping over neighboring Lausanne.  Now, let’s get one thing straight. Europeans don’t take this stuff lightly. I mean, you don’t even know crazy until you’ve walked by ten squads of riot police equipped with sandbag guns just to get to the arena’s family section. We were able to watch one of the earlier games a few weeks ago and it was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. (more…)

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