14 February 2011

Pickles and Potatoes

The Borg were right. "You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."

I'm actually trying to be assimilated into Swiss culture bit by bit in a selective way. And I don't mind saying that I'm having noticeable success. I now squirt mustard and mayo right out of a tube onto my sandwiches without even thinking of brushing my teeth. I now think that 10 degrees C. in Feb. is positively balmy. I now pay the equivalent of US$25 for a simple café lunch without gagging.

But there's still the pickles-cheese-potatoes thing. In two of the Swiss national dishes -- raclette and fondue -- these three ingredients often share your plate. To me this combination sounds like something only a feverish pregnant woman would crave.

The other afternoon, having an extraordinary family brunch at a swanky Neuchâtel hotel in celebration of two birthdays, my sweet mother-in-law asked my wife something about something, and it came out that I still can't stomach raclette, the revered Swiss dish composed of melted gooey cheese that is somehow both stinky and bland, poured over boiled potatoes with pickles on the side. My belle-mère was not amused. Normally, this sweet lady adores me, but now she was shooting me eye-daggers and making "harumph" noises.

In my own defense may I please ask you (and her) to note that I like fondue quite well. The mixture of Gruyère and Vacherin cheeses mixed with just the right amount of white wine and a drop of kirsch, all of it softly bubbling in the pot as you dip in your big cube of bread, wrap it in the fragrant mixture, pull it up, roll it so a maximum amount of cheese stays on like a glistening cloak, bring it to your mouth and woosh, a subtle melange of flavors spills into your senses. Note that this delicacy never need touch your plate. All the better because down there are the potato and pickle you've also been served. But don't worry about them. Some feverish pregnant lady will probably be along soon.


  1. I guess I never thought how odd the combination might seem, but I like a little pickle with my cheese-y potatoes. I'm not Swiss or pregnant--just odd I guess ;-)

  2. You know Kathy, I think you're exactly right. It's not the pickle at all. The pickle is a good crunchy sweet contrast. It's the raclette cheese oozed all over mealy boiled potatoes. Blech!