31 January 2019, The Tablet

The Ethical Kitchen: a Swiss delight


The Ethical Kitchen: a Swiss delight
 

My understanding of Alpine culture came via the table … I adored that wan, pale if rather heavy food – and still do

My mother spent part of her childhood living in the Swiss Alps. Her mother had contracted tuberculosis after the Second World War, and took up residence in a clinic there. She survived the disease, thanks to the discovery of a successful treatment, and then moved to the Alpes-Maritimes region in the south-east of France, where she remained for the rest of her life.

Growing up in 1960s London, my understanding of Alpine culture came via the table. Plates of buttered noodles and simmered smoked sausage; roast, sweet-tasting veal, green lentils, blissfully crisp rösti, holey cheeses melting in gratins and fondues, and, on a special occasion, a savoury choux pastry ring filled with mushrooms in a creamy sauce.

Black cherry jam would be on the table, sweet mustard too, and I’m sure we must have been one of the first English families to buy a packet of Alpen. Not to be forgotten was the best of Swiss treats – deliciously creamy chocolate. My (addicted) grandmother would keep bars of it locked in a cupboard. After much begging we’d be allowed a square or two, a ration that made it taste even nicer.

I adored that wan, pale if rather heavy food – and still do. It is, needless to say, deeply unfashionable and certainly vegan-averse but lately, looking at the latest dietary advice, it may not be so bad.

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