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eG Foodblog: Boris_A - A life in a week, a week in a life


Boris_A
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Good Morning , World

Yesterday was appliance day.

Now I want to explain a bit about Swiss culinary tradition and history. But I'm no expert, so there might be erronous statements and oversimplifications.

As many know, Switzerland has a historic population composed by (roughly) 60% German speaking, 25% French speaking, 10% Italian speeking and 5% Rumantsch speaking people. (These are all offical languages, with some limits wrt. Rumantsch. For instance, our constitution does exist in three languages, and the original text is preceeding any translation. Lawyers, did you hear that?)

This diversity is well reflected in culinary habits.The French part is strongly influenced by, you guessed it, France, and the Italian part (Ticino) by the nearby Lombardia and northern Piedmont.

The German part (where I'm living) is a bit a different story. The Bourgeoisie (there was no real aristocracy in Switzerland, think more of east-coast elite families) was mainly influenced by French cuisine, therefore much of the historical Swiss-German cuisine is an adaption of French restaurant cooking of the last century. In contrast, the rural population stayed rather with their medieval habits. (We are talking here about 19th century habits and influences).

As a result, the dominating Swiss-German part developed no coherent and distinct cuisine. And Switzerland being a rather protestantic country, a certain distain for pleasure and, what people thought, overrefinement was clearly there in the time (50s) when I was born. I followed here dicussions about American culinary habits and tradition and the lack of, and I can tell you, I read many statements reflecting exactly the same attitude.

If you ask me about the outstanding Swiss culinary legacy to this world, I's say this is some truly great cheese and some great chocolate.

To document the self-esteem for the cheese culture, there's a well known joke here: "Why are there 700 different French cheese variants? Because they still try to imitate Gruyère"

As for the chocolate (and pastry), I'd like to stress that in 19th, there have been Swiss in many northern European capitals (Berlin, Copenhagen etc.) running pastry shops and coffee houses at the best locations of the towns. And I heard that one the most famous Belgian chocolate producers was actually founded by a Swiss expat.

I'll be back to answer the questions.

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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Wonderful blog, Boris_A. . .

Simple question, perhaps, but what are the origins of cheese dishes such as fondue and raclette? They seem reflect a kind of culture that seems in some ways to prefer foods that are prepared outside the kitchen. Were they originally prepared outdoors? Émincé de veau also seems to often be prepared at table in restaurants.

The Austrians have about 15 named ways (once about 30!) to cut beef for boiling. And every gourmet has his preferred piece. Tafelspitz is the crown.

Boiled beef is popular in Switzerland as well, but with cuts of lesser quality.

BTW. Wechsberg mentioned the following types of boiled beef being served in Meissl and Schadn during the 1930s in his great essay from Blue Trout and Black Truffles:

Tafelzpitz, Tafeldeckel, Rieddeckel, Beinfleisch, Rippenfleisch, Kavalierspitz, Kruspelspitz, Hieferschwanzl, Schulterschwanzl, Schulterscherzl, Mageres Meisel (or Mäuserl), Fettes Meisel, Zwerchried, Mittleres Kügerl, Dünnes Kügerl, Dickes Kügerl, Bröselfleisch, Ausgelöstes, Brustkern, Brustfleisch, Weisses Scherzl, Schwarzes Scherzl, Zapfen, and Ortschwanzl

(!) Thanks, ludja, for bringing up Wechsberg - I can't resist quoting him either.

Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host

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Just made a walk through or village to give an impression of food shopping facilities:

One of the local the butchers (cute, no?). He offers a selection of the most popular meats and cuts and some great in-house produced sausages. Specialities (different cuts) on pre-order.

i8820.jpg

Grocery and his fruit/vegetables offerings outside.

i8821.jpg

it's cheese selection , about 50-60 varieties:

i8822.jpg

Inside one of the small bakeries, shelves almost depleted on miday:

i8823.jpg

it's pastry selection:

i8824.jpg

and it's handmade pralinées:

i8825.jpg

Note: our village is about 5 miles from the center of Zürich. Call it a suburb-village, the infrastructure still reflecting the former rural structures. There's also a mid-size supermarket.

There are other suburbs, with Carrefour supermarkets (football camp surface) like in France for instance. I think the food variety is more or less about the same, but there are simply more rows of each product.

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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Last year, we had for 4 days a small open air restaurant in front of our home (village festivities), and we cranked out about 100-120 dishes every evening.

What dishes did you prepare? Were many others cooking for the festival, or just you?

There have been about 6 restaurants and some 15 food stands.

We all finetuned our offerings to avoid overlaps. The others offerd risotto, fryied fish, gratinated pasta and so on.

We had: polenta slices roasted with home-clarified butter (what a difference compared with industrial clarified one) either with carefully concentrated tomato sauce ($5) or braised mushrooms (boletus aka porcinis) à la minute ($7), "Carpaccio di Bresaola" or Prosciutto di San Daniele ($7). Next time, there will be dessert as well (bunet piemontese, $4). Our motto was "Una serata Valtellinese" (an evening in Valtellina style, Valtellino was part of Switzerland until 1815).

The artisanal Bresaola was an outstanding find by me on a journey in Valtellino. We had Italians (there are many living in Switzerland) who came back asking what kind of meat this was. They couldn't believe this being Bresaola. It was so much better then everything they had before.

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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Simple question, perhaps, but what are the origins of cheese dishes such as fondue and raclette?  They seem reflect a kind of culture that seems in some ways to prefer foods that are prepared outside the kitchen. 

Simple question perhaps, complicated answer maybe.

Fondue is an old dish, probably a starter dish. There's a "Fondues, are they naff?" thread where I posted an old recipe reported by Brillat-Savarin, going back to AD 1700 and somthing. Mainly emmenthal cheese, butter and egg.

I remember during the 60s, when cheese overproduction became a problem, there had been nationwide advertisment campaigns. I think that was the time when fondue got it's more than regional (French part of Switzerland) status.

Raclette is for sure an open air food. I know it from picking a large piece of raclette cheese, boiled potatoes and bread, some mixed pickles. Further a case of white wine and two square sandstones and then going to the woods or climbing on mountain meadows. We made a fire, placed our stones nearby, put the cheese upon the stones and: voilà, the raclette party begins!

Got popular with the "right" special equipment at the same time as fondue, from the same reasons, by the same method (advertisment).

But the spirit of unusual conviviality remained. Eating from the same pot, eating from the same piece of cheese. Truly a great re-invention for all kind of kids in the age between 5 and 105. :biggrin:

Tafelzpitz, Tafeldeckel, Rieddeckel, Beinfleisch, Rippenfleisch, Kavalierspitz, Kruspelspitz, Hieferschwanzl, Schulterschwanzl, Schulterscherzl, Mageres Meisel (or Mäuserl), Fettes Meisel, Zwerchried, Mittleres Kügerl, Dünnes Kügerl, Dickes Kügerl, Bröselfleisch, Ausgelöstes, Brustkern, Brustfleisch, Weisses Scherzl, Schwarzes Scherzl, Zapfen, and Ortschwanzl

Music, just music!

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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Hang on - what's that metallic thing, directly under the monkey in the second picture?

An audio appliance?

A claw machine?

Do tell :smile:

Marsha Lynch aka "zilla369"

Has anyone ever actually seen a bandit making out?

Uh-huh: just as I thought. Stereotyping.

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You have a wonderful sense of style, Boris. Love the beautiful wood variation on the table!

A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness. – Elsa Schiaparelli, 1890-1973, Italian Designer

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Hang on - what's that metallic thing, directly under the monkey in the second picture?

An audio appliance?

A claw machine?

Do tell :smile:

It's a 1954 Rock Ola "Icicle" juke box. My 120 selections iPod, so to say.

I bought it when I was a student, and I moved that 160 lb over an uncountable number of stairways since then.

When you ever watch "Giants", it somwhere there in the coffee bar when Rock Hudson is involved in that ugly brawl.

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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You have a wonderful sense of style, Boris. 

Thank you. If true then: WE have, arbuclo, we!

Beatrix and me. Still in love after all those years.

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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Is the dining table walnut? The wood and grain structure is phenominal. Almost as lovely as your desk. arbuclo is correct your and Beatrix have a wonderful sense of style

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rosti boundary. 

I see, you know about the complexities of ot cultural diversity.

BTW, for those who are not sure about the correct pronounciation of "Rösti":

it's like "rushty" with an u like in curl.

balex, I just had the opportunity to the taste the my first 2003 Pinot Noir from here border of the lake. Incredibly sweet fruit. I think this is going to be one of the great bargains in Pinot Noir this year. This is going to blow away some of the better Burgundy village wines.

A producer (an old man now) told me that only 1947 was of that quality. When the grapes had been pressed, he said he'd almost have eaten the marc, it was so sweet and fruity.

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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When is the next festival? While you provide us with "man on the scene" reports?

I love the whole room btw. Those wood floors look beautiful. And the grain on the table is spectacular.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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Is the dining table walnut?  The wood and grain structure is phenominal. 

Yes, walnut. So it's related with food.

It was a fairly big tree standing in private garden a bit uphill. It died and we got the trunk. We sliced it and waited 4 long years to get it dry. After planing, the structure came out with a lot of branches and cracks and holes. We decided to take the board leafs "as found". We finished the table after sanding and polishing some weeks ago.

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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Is the dining table walnut?  The wood and grain structure is phenominal. 

Yes, walnut. So it's related with food.

It was a fairly big tree standing in private garden a bit uphill. It died and we got the trunk. We sliced it and waited 4 long years to get it dry. After planing, the structure came out with a lot of branches and cracks and holes. We decided to take the board leafs "as found". We finished the table after sanding and polishing some weeks ago.

Well worth the wait.

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When is the next festival?  While you provide us with "man on the scene" reports?

The first weekend of september. I'll report.

Just came back from visiting my fisherman.

Dinner will be whitefish (powan?) "poêlée" with some basilic infused butter, steamed rice and sauteed string beans. Dessert a local, very popular pastry bought at the bakery.

For wine, we'll take a bottle of "Räuschling", a native white wine variety. Almost unknown outside of our region.

Lunch was boiled beef sandwich.

Whe I accepted the blog, we thought about what to cook. We decided not to change anything in our diet. It is that simple. It's the way we live. Now. Habits do change.

PS. Is there a translation for "poêler"?

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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PS. Is there a translation for "poêler"?

Would "pan fry" do it? I'm not sure that gets across the whole sense of "poêler."

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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A truly splendid blog, Boris. The photographs of the kitchen and living room are very tasteful.

Blog on, dear Boris, blog on.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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PS. Is there a translation for "poêler"?

Would "pan fry" do it? I'm not sure that gets across the whole sense of "poêler."

Hmm. I tried to look up, of course. In German, there's a somewhat awkward translation like "white frying" or "white braising". Maybe it's really a French notion of a subtle differentiation of a cooking process which has no precise translation. I dunno. :smile:

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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If I have the opportunity to address a somewhat larger audience here:

There are two truly outstanding pieces of text waiting for a translation. Really!

One is the preface of the French recipe book of Alain Chapel. It's about 50 pages and would make a great piece of reflections on cuisine and, foremost, about the the culture of consuming it.

The other one is a German book called "Les Chefs", witten by a German Anglistic professor living in Aix. It's about the great French chefs of the 20th century. He succeeded in showing how personality, character and and cuisine are connected. It's much more than the usual hymns on chefs. It's critical and still full of admiration. It wasn't a seller in the German book market, but those who read it have been enthuiastic. It's a "now for something completely different" in portraying of the famous French chefs.

Is there any interest?

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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When is the next festival?  While you provide us with "man on the scene" reports?

The first weekend of september. I'll report.

What a great idea, bloviatrix! I am looking forward to the festival.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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I guess the nearest English/US equivalent to "poelee" woud be pot roast. Butter-poached might be a more modern translation.

Escoffier remarks

"Poelings are, practically speaking, roasts, for the cooking periods are the same , except that the former are cooked entirel or almost entirely with butter....

It is of paramount importance that these are not moistened during the process of cooking, for in that case they would be the same as braised meats"

Kettner claims the derivation is from patella the latin for saucepan, via Padell (the Forme of Cury, the oldest English cookery book, about 1387 mentions "Hare in Papdele" and thence paele.

The Oxford English Dictionary claims it means "a broth" which is clearly plain wrong.

Differs from poaching in that the cooking medium is butter, not water or stock based.

Differs from shallow or pan frying in that the temperature is lower and the food not intentionally browned

Differs from braising as above.

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If I have the opportunity to address a somewhat larger audience here:

There are two truly outstanding pieces of text waiting for a translation. Really!

One is the preface of the French recipe book of Alain Chapel. It's about 50 pages and would make a great piece of reflections on cuisine and, foremost, about the the culture of consuming it.

...

Is there any interest?

I might do the Alain Chapel book of which i have a copy -- it would be slightly dodgy from a copyright point of view though -- too much to be fair use.

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Gruezi, Boris!

My parents have lived in Ebikon for 35 years, so I know Switzerland rather well. My grandmother's chalet is in Hasliberg.

Can you talk a little about Hobelkase? I have always enjoyed that. And about the chocolate industry! What is your favorite brand?

Danke viel mals!

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