Before moving with my family to Switzerland, I had only limited ideas about typical Swiss food. My basic thinking was this: Switzerland = chocolate. Aren't the Swiss are famous for their chocolate bars and hot cocoa? Plus many of us consider chocolate as food, right? (*Smiles*)
But there is far more to Swiss cuisine than chocolate.
For example, let's talk about cheese. It is a common ingredient in so many Swiss dishes because Switzerland is a leader among dairy producers. There is a saying: The French have one cheese type for each day of the year. In my opinion, the Swiss have even more. A few examples of cheese varieties:
Gruyere, this is a hard cheese made in the town of Gruyeres.
Appenzeller, this is a strong smelling cheese from northeastern Switzerland.
Meals differ from region to region. Switzerland is influenced by its neighbor countries and their national cuisines. So the French-speaking cantons take cues from France, Ticino looks to Italy, and so forth. German and Austrian favorites are also popular in certain locations.
So what are the common meals? Let's start with breakfast.
Spelled either way, this healthy breakfast originated in Switzerland. It is a mixture of milk-soaked oatmeal, nuts, and dried fruits. In the late 19th century, Maximilian Bircher-Benner, a physician and nutritionist from Zurich, found this cereal-like mix beneficial to himself and others who were mountain hiking enthusiasts. Dr. Bircher prescribed musli to all his clinic patients and by doing so made this dish quite popular. Today Birchermuesli is sold in more than 40 countries worldwide.
Lunch or Dinner
Fondue means melted in French. It is a popular menu choice at ski resorts, restaurants, and at home. The dish requires a pot kept warmed over a flame. In general there is one pot on the table containing a mixture of melted aged cheeses, white wine or perhaps a cherry liqueur (kirsch), and garlic. You sit around the table and use thin skewers to dip cubes of bread and other items such as olives, onions, pickles, even apple slices, into the pot, twist the skewer, and return the cheese-covered item to your own plate. Popular cheese mixtures include Emmenthal and aged Gruyere, but my personal favorite is moitie moitie (half - half). This is mix of Gruyere and Vacherin Fribourgeois.
This is a shredded oven-crisp potato bake. It was at one time a typical farmer's breakfast. Today it is a meal or a side dish. The mixture for its preparation is available in vacuum-sealed bags in every grocery store. Some cooks like to add other ingredients to make their own variation, such as cheese, apples, onions, or some other grated vegetable.
These are the Swiss national sausages. We love to take them on our hiking trips and roast them over a firepit.
First developed in the canton of Valais, raclette is a local semi-hard cheese that is heated so that the melted part can be scraped off to cover a plate filled with boiled small potatoes, pickled onions, tiny gherkins, and sometimes also dried beef. Raclette grills have even become a common kitchen appliance. During the winter months ski resorts hold Raclette Nights during which guests can enjoy this fun group eating experience.
As for dessert...
Caramelized nuts, shortcrust pastry, a side of fresh whipped cream, happy smiles. The Bundner Nusstorte is a beautiful and classic Swiss dessert.
It comes from the Graubunden region.
Now...did I mention chocolate?
You can enjoy a piece of chocolate by itself, in a dessert fondue, in hot beverages, in cakes and cookies too!
P.S. The Swiss are a very patriotic people, so do not be surprised to see their flag colors and symbols everywhere - even on donuts with red icing and small white crosses!
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