Monday, June 10, 2019


It’s hard to believe that today is June 9, and my kids STILL aren’t out of school yet. (Their last day is the 13th.) And it’s also hard to believe that we’re STILL trying to finish up the final repairs to this house that should’ve been finished over a month ago. Turns out, the guy was just taking our money and only fixing not even half the stuff we signed off on. But luckily, we have a new crew in there who seems to know how to work more than two hours at a time. We might actually get to finally move into it soon.

I bet these would also be good with some orange zest, too!
So, to calm down and celebrate the end of the school year coming up, there’s no better way than with food from Switzerland. The first thing I got started with was the Bütschella. First, I proofed my yeast in warm water until it was dissolved and frothy. In a large bowl, I added in my flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest and made sure it was all combined well. To that, I added in two eggs, some softened butter and the yeast mixture. I mixed everything by hand and kneaded it for about 10 minutes. After several minutes, I threw in some dried cranberries (the recipe calls for raisins, but I hate raisins; lemon and cranberries are much better together) and mixed it until it seemed like they were pretty evenly distributed throughout the dough. I formed it into a ball and covered with a slightly damp cheesecloth (instead of a towel) and let it rest for about an hour. I set out a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. After dividing my dough into twelve pieces and forming them into balls, I set them on the parchment paper to rest for another 30 minutes or so. I set my oven to 350ºF, and while it was heating up, I brushed the tops of these with an egg wash (using the whole egg) and sprinkled sugar on top of that. I let these bake for about 20-25 minutes until they look golden brown on top. I was amazed at how good these are, and definitely better with the cranberries. The crumb was perfect. What a great little summer pastry!

Very tender, the flavor was very good despite being minimally seasoned.
The main dish I made today was Zürcher Geschnetzeltes. Instead of veal, I’m using thin-cut pork cutlets, mostly because veal is harder to find and more expensive when you find it (I looked for it when I made Austrian food and wanted to use veal for wiener schnitzel. It would’ve been $63 for about 3 lbs!). I cut my pork into thin strips and sprinkled enough flour over it to coat them well. I melted butter in a frying pan and pan fried the meat until it was done and set it aside. Then I added a little more butter and sautéd the onion, sage leaves, and garlic for a few minutes before adding in the baby bella mushrooms. (I don’t think I’ve ever used sage leaves before and they smelled just like the woods.) I let these cook for another five minutes so that everything was soft before adding in a little bit of white wine and the pork back into the skillet. I let this cook down until most of the wine has cooked off, then turning the heat down and letting it simmer for another 5-10 minutes. At the end, I seasoned it with a bit of salt and pepper and added in the cream. I let everything cook for another two minutes before I turned the heat off. Now this was fantastic! I really liked this recipe using the pork. Overall, it wasn’t a difficult dish to make, very easy for a weeknight dish.

I could eat this for breakfast. It was amazing, and I can definitely see room for variations.
To go with this, I made Oven-baked Rösti Cake. Any recipe that starts out with pan frying bacon and chopping it into small pieces has the potential to be amazing. Then I got my big pot out and boiled a couple lbs of golden/yellow potatoes for 5 minutes  (that was the closest thing I could find to Maris Piper potatoes, which apparently aren’t here in the US from what I gathered). After a quick blanch and dip in some cold water, I patted them dry and grated them (using the large grates) into a bowl. I grated part of an onion and mixed it and the bacon with the potatoes. I pulled out one of my loose-bottom cake tins, and sprinkled the potato mix in the cake tin that I had greased heavily with butter. Trying not to pack any of it down, I topped it with small pieces of butter. Before I put this in a 375ºF oven, I warmed up a baking sheet for about five minutes first. Then I placed my cake tin on the heated baking sheet and let this bake for about an hour. The potatoes should be cooked through and be crisp on top. I think I ended up boiling my potatoes a little longer than needed, but it kind of worked out in the end. I really liked this dish. It was almost like a potatoes au gratin of sorts. And it went quite well with the pork. I just wished I had made a green vegetable of some sort to go with them as well.

Such a wonderful meal! A+++++
This meal was so wonderful. All the dishes turned out well, in fact, it was more than well. This is the best type of comfort food, which is a good place to end my blog meals in this house. I’ll be taking a break for the next month or so as we get ready to move, but I’m really excited that the next time I cook for my blog will be in my own kitchen of our own home. Even though this is a rental home, we’ve been in it for nearly nine years, and I’ve cooked 167 of my blog meals in this kitchen. Onwards and upwards.
Up next: Syria

Saturday, June 8, 2019


Despite being a multicultural nation, there is something uniquely Swiss about their music. Not much is known about super early folk music traditions in Switzerland, but it’s thought that they utilized the modes (scales) and instruments that were common of the time. Hammered dulcimers (which I want to own one day), hurdy-gurdies, castinets, alpine horns (yes, the same in the Ricola commercials), fifes, bagpipes, citterns (a type of string instrument), and shawms (a type of double-reed woodwind instrument) were used in much of Swiss folk music.

By the 19th century, we knew much more about Swiss music. Brass bands started to become a thing, and instruments were being built better to more of a standard. Not long after the accordion was invented in Vienna, it made its way to Switzerland where they embraced this instrument that would allow you to play both the melody and harmony at the same time, yet far more portable than a piano (to be honest, most instruments are). Oddly enough, the accordion wasn’t used in dance bands until the early 1900s. As we got into the 20th century, genres like jazz, swing, and the foxtrot began to infiltrate Swiss music, especially in the urban areas. Starting in the 1960s, rock took over and swept its way into homes and radio stations, bringing in different styles like psychedelic rock, blues, hard rock, and punk.

The Swiss would incorporate several different dance styles as part of their traditional dances, even ones that didn’t originate in Switzerland but popular throughout Europe. Some of these include the polka, mazurka, waltz, Scottish, and foxtrot. In the 1800s and into the 1900s, folk dancing took on a different motivation: to create a sense of home and belonging. These dances were often performed at weddings and public events. One dance that’s particular to the central part of the country is the Bödälä, a dance marked by a lot of stamping in intricate rhythmic beats.

I listened to several bands from Switzerland. The first was Knut, a metal band that definitely sounds like something I’d play in my car. I would recommend them for releasing your inner rage a la Aggretsuko style.

Of course, I was excited that we finally got to one of my favorite metal bands, Eluveitie. They are more of a folk metal band, but I think they’re fantastic. My cousin introduced them to me, and now I have three of their albums. I also just realized they have a new one that came out this year I didn’t know about.

Yves Larocks
Switching genres, I also sampled some tracks from Yves Larock. It’s more of a dance music style mixed with a little electronica, but I think they’re good. I like them. They do have vocals to them, but that’s ok. I took a brief listen to Christine Lauterburg. Her music is kind of soft pop mixed with some electronic-influenced ambient, and one song has an Arab-style folk music mixed in. If you need something slower, then this is it. Another one I listened to in this genre is DJ Bobo, with a little more dance-pop influence, I think. I also just giggle at his name (bobo means “fool” in Spanish).

Sens Unik
And, I also listened to Sens Unik. It’s not what I originally thought this was. It’s hip-hop but it’s also got sung lyrics on occasion and uses a little bit of funk and rock mixed in there too. Plus, he raps/sings in French, not German. They remind me a little bit of the Croatian hip-hop duo Elemental.

One band I listened to that I really like is a hard rock band called Gotthard. They remind me a little bit of the hard rock/metal bands of the late 1980s and early 1990s. I can get with this. I think I can detect a Metallica or Guns N Roses influence in there.
Up next: the food

Tuesday, June 4, 2019


From its elaborate embroidery on their clothing to their wood carvings, Switzerland’s folk arts are pretty well known. Their embroidery was typically used on women’s clothing and accessories but is now generally relegated to more touristy purposes now. Traditional clothing are pretty much only worn for cultural festivals these days.

A type of woodcarving commonly seen in Switzerland is called chip carving. This style of carving is when you take a small knife or a chisel and chip off pieces of wood from a larger block. Many artists have created figurines, spoons, walking sticks, stools, and other objects using this method. My uncle does this and makes fantastic intricately carved spoons. They really are incredible, and I want to learn how to do this.

They also have an odd carving tradition: Rääbeliechtli. It’s part of a fall celebration with its roots in Halloween. They carve out the insides of a root vegetable, most often it’s turnips, and then place a candle inside and hang it by three chains. (“Excuse me, can you turnip the light a little bit?” I’m sorry. I have a problem with offering unsolicited puns.) It is beautiful, though.

They have also had quite a few painters and sculptors from Switzerland make a name for themselves. During the 16th century, religion (especially Protestantism) had a strong hold on the subject matter of their art. Swiss artists spanned a number of artistic styles and mediums, and many of them were well known: Samuel Hieronymus Grimm (18th century watercolor painter), Alberto Giacometti (much of his works were drawn on [pun intended] inspirations from Etruscan artists), Jean Tinguely (sculpturist, known for complex moving works using scrap metals), and Paul Klee (one of the more well-known 20th century artists, known for his Surrealism, Expressionism, and Cubism styles).

A Google Doodle for Paul Klee's 139th birthday.
The Dada movement, which was popular in Europe during the first couple of decades of the 20th century, started out in Zürich, Switzerland. It came about in response to WWI as a way of rejecting the reason and conformity of the capitalist society of the day. Instead, they opted to create art that represented the opposite: creating worlds that were upside-down, illogical, nonsensical, and often with an anti-bourgeois sentiment. The movement quickly spread to New York, Paris, and other cities.

One of my husband’s favorite artists is HR Giger. Some of his most famous works can be seen in the biomechanical monsters of sci-fi movies and video games, including the alien from the Alien franchise. However, if you look up a picture of HR Giger, I think he looks like Biff Tannen from the Back to the Future movies when they go into the future and he’s older. Tell me there’s not a resemblance.

L - HR Giger; R - the character Biff Tannen
Swiss literature is mainly written in German, but there is still quite a bit that is written in French, Italian, and Romansh. Of course, the earliest writing from this area tend to be written in Latin, but toward the end of the Middle Ages, court and other political document switched over to German.

Outside of government papers (which aren’t really considered literature, per se), many of the first pieces of literature were in the form on poems or songs. And like many epic poems written during the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance period, topics generally includes stories about wars, war heroes, adventures, and love. These poems and songs often serve as a historical account. One of the first major works written in German was an elaborate history of Switzerland by Joseph Strumpf written in 1548.

Solomon Gesner
During the 18th century, three cities became some of the key literary centers for not only Switzerland but in Europe as well. Zürich is probably the most known for its literary circles, but Basel and Bern also held their own. (Basil was also known for its mathematicians.) Some of the big names that were influential during this time include Isaac Iselin, Albrecht von Haller, JJ Scheuchzer, Solomon Gesner, and Johann Georg Zimmermann.

Themes shifted a bit in literature written during the 19th century. A sense of homeland, local dialects, and the country/peasant life brought forth a different focus and life in Swiss literature. Johann David Wyss wrote the famous novel Swiss Family Robinson, but also gave us the lyrics to the Swiss national anthem as well. Johanna Spyri wrote the well-known children’s book Heidi, which is set in the Swiss Alps (which I have a nice hardbound copy of given to me by my grandmother).

There have been two Nobel prize winners in literature during the 20th century: Carl Spitteler (1919, famous for his epic poem “Olympian Spring”) and Hermann Hesse (1946, I’ve read his novels Steppenwolf and Siddhartha and have Demian on my to-read list).
Up next: music and dance