What Swiss Cuisine Lacks: An Ode to American Food
People who know me well know that I like food. I love cooking, baking, grocery shopping, outdoor markets, restaurants, growing food, reading about food and, the best part, eating food. I wouldn’t call myself a food expert, because that would be overstating things by a long haul, and I don’t have the money or knowledge to be a bonified foodie. I would categorize myself as something of a food hobbyist.
And so, as I’m living in a foreign country, experiencing different cultural norms, I’d like to mention, from time to time, something about the cuisine I’m experiencing.
This particular epicurean installment is not so much a celebration of the marvelous food I’ve eaten here thus far, but a piece of nostalgia for foods I had taken for granted back home.
I know, culinary complaints should be prohibited in this land of cheese and chocolate, so think of this not as a set of complaints, but a defense of American cuisine–McDonalds and Coca-Cola may have invaded every European town from Portugal to Norway, but I’d like to make the case that this is not real but pseudo-American cuisine. It seems like the following deliciously Yankee food items have yet to have their day in the European culinary courts and I am here to speak on their behalf.
#1. Peanut butter: Sure, we all love Nutella, but honestly I think peanut butter can give it a run for its money. Deliciously sweet and savoury, with a nice dose of protein built right in, peanut butter has the comfort factor of Nutella without the intense, unmitigated sweetness. I’ve found a couple of (frankly hilarious) jars of peanut butter with labels that advertise themselves as an ‘American’ product. They are a little sweeter than I like, but they’ll do in a pinch.
#2. Cheddar Cheese: I know! I’m awful! In Switzerland, cheese heaven, and thoughts of foreign cheese still persist. A really sharp yellow cheddar really is awesome though. A few slices with apples (and peanut butter) make for a delicious snack. Cheddar, roast beef and mustard might be one of the best sandwich combinations in the world. It’s cheap, delicious and goes with everything.
#3. Chocolate Chip Cookies: Again! I feel like I have to apologize, I’ll get to the pain au chocolat and Belgian waffles later. I promise you, I could write a book of odes to European desserts, but for the moment I’d like to discuss the merits of a well-baked chocolate chip cookie. I think it’s the consistency of the cookie–it’s not soft and doughy but chewy, sometimes crunchy. It’s got a little oomph to it that a lot of other desserts lack. Even though the shelves are lined with delicious pastries, there seems to be nary a good freshly-baked cookie in Swiss patisseries.
#4. The Bagel: I’ve never been to New York, so I might be underqualified to speak on the subject, but I have been to Barry’s Bagels in Toledo, OH and to Einstein Brothers and Chicago Bagel Authority and, with my father’s proclivity for bagel-runs, I have eaten more than my share of everything and blueberry bagels and I have to say, they’re the best. Again, with peanut butter or with roast beef and cheddar cheese. Delicious.
I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but I feel a little guilty devoting my first food post to nostalgia, but I feel that American cuisine is too often shunted into the narrow dimensions of hot dogs, hamburgers and pizza. Forget McDonalds! Instead of nutella, Gruyere, pain au chocolat and baguettes, the US can boast of peanut butter, cheddar cheese, chocolate chip cookies and bagels. Good. Now that that’s out of the way for the moment, I can move on to the main event, singing the praise of European delicacies, restaurant menus, and market stalls.