Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s been almost exactly a year and a half since my husband and I embarked on this journey across the ocean with our 4 suitcases to come to Switzerland. We came with no friends, no family, no knowledge of language or customs, or culture – and yet, in the past 18 months, we’ve adjusted to life here so much that after going “home” to the U.S. last month to see my sister get married, coming back to Switzerland felt like coming home too – in its own way. I don’t think either of us would have ever expected that when we first moved here.
One of the main reasons why I think we’ve been able to become accustomed to our life here is because of the food we eat. Switzerland (at least what I have seen so far) has several bountiful farmer’s markets that I really enjoy walking through and shopping in – though I may still be asking those selling the produce each week what the different foods are called en français – for example this past weekend I learned that peas are les petits pois, which sounds much nicer than just asking for a kilo of ça and pointing to the bin of peas which a confused but hopeful look on your face… Around the stands of fresh produce I am comfortable and in my element – I can walk through a market and become inspired, just like I did when I lived in the U.S. – in fact, maybe even more so because the markets have such variety here. And with access to fresh produce, eggs, meats and cheeses, I can cook *almost* whatever I want and transport myself in my mind through my taste buds – whether it be back to the U.S. for memories Thanksgiving dinners with families, or romantic mountaintop fondue dinners with my husband in the Swiss Alps.
Cooking, the simple act of preparing ingredients to create a meal, is one of the single most important reasons why I think we have been able to make ourselves a home here. If things feel a bit too unfamiliar, we at least know that tomatoes will still reduce to an amazing pasta sauce when slowly simmered for hours, poached eggs will still run in a golden river across roasted asparagus at breakfast time, and a cup of green tea will always put me in a calm meditative mood. In the kitchen we can find the predictable and comfortable, in essence creating our feeling of home just by the aromas and flavors we create.
While we’ve certainly enjoyed many Swiss treats during our time here, I don’t think our cooking or eating habits have been fundamentally altered. For the most part, I still cook like I always have – take a look in my fridge, see what we have, what needs to be used, and throw something together with flavor and see what happens. And when I want to be daring or do something new, I have this whole wide community of people from all over the world to turn to online, to give me ideas and inspiration and advice. We eat less meat because it’s a lot more expensive than in the U.S., and dairy is really cheap here so we probably eat more cheese and yogurt than we used to, but other than that our cooking has not really changed.
Sometimes we try to discuss where we will live next – will we return to the U.S.? Will we try to stay en Suisse? Look to France, Germany, elsewhere in Europe? Or maybe hop over another ocean or two to New Zealand or Australia? Every time we have this discussion we end up reaching a different conclusion. One day it’s wanting to return because we miss our families and friends so much, the next it’s we’re still young and we should go and see the world while we can. And while it’s fun to marvel over all the exotic (to us) delicacies that we could enjoy if we say, moved to Italy, or any other new country for that matter, we both know it won’t be the food that dictates where we go – because as long as we can find fresh high quality ingredients, we can be creative. And if we can’t exactly reproduce our comfort foods, we can develop new ones. No matter what, our kitchen will likely be the most defining aspect of our “home” – wherever that may end up being in the future.
This whole discussion started because of a little early morning twitter club by some of us Plate to Page participants – we call ourselves the #coldcoffeeclub – Mona of WiseWords, Simone of Junglefrog Cooking, Jamie of Life’s A Feast, Astrid of Paulchen’s Food blog, , Ishay of Food and the Fabulous, myself and Ilva of Lucullian Delights. A little discussion turned into a coordinated writing activity, so be sure to check out everyone else’s blogs for their perspectives – our official prompt -
Would you let your waistline determine where you live?
I think that’s one of the great beauties of cooking, is that it can be done anywhere and with virtually anything and still have one’s own signature and personality infused into it. Cooking and love of food are part of those beauties of self that come from within – from all the memories we carry with us, and the events we see each day, incorporating into our food the very essence of ourselves. How each of us cooks is a living history of our travels and experiences from life. I see cooking as an act of expression where the ingredients are the paint colors, and the pots and pans the brushes and canvases we use. If there are limited resources or unfamiliar ones because we are in a new place, it just means one gets to use the imagination more. Either way, whichever locale we find ourselves arriving upon next, I’m sure our kitchen will be what makes our place “home” – where we can find familiar favorites or new tastes, but no matter what, always us, cooking with the same enthusiasm we do now.
And so today, I baked for you something familiar and comforting to remind us of home, but using some of my favorite fresh local fruits of the season at the moment – Swiss strawberries. The season doesn’t last long and I am determined to eat fresh strawberries in any way I can while they are around – and it was worth waiting for the local ones, the flavor of the imported ones just doesn’t compare. The markets have been brimming with berries in the past couple of weeks, and soon the stone fruits of peaches, apricots and plums will be marking the sure days of Summer to come.
I used my favorite gluten free chocolate quick bread recipe, and let it dry out overnight before baking it into bread pudding the next day. As my quick bread was already sweet, I didn’t see a need to add any sugar to the bread pudding mixture, just some on top to help make a nice crust while it baked. This bread pudding is a bit unconventional in that there is a bottom layer of fruit – strawberries macerated in lime juice overnight to help bring out their natural juices and sweetness, and then the quick bread layered on top of that. This also serves as my paperchef entry, a culinary competition to create dishes using a surprise set of ingredients – this month was chocolate, bread, berries, and lime
Prep time = 2 hours to make the quick bread and prep the strawberries
Total time = 2 hours, spread out over 2 days
- 1 loaf gluten free chocolate chestnut quick bread
- 1 qt. strawberries (or a barquette), hulled & quartered
- juice of one lime
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups (just under 1/2 L) milk
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- butter for greasing pan
- handful chocolate chips
- a couple tbsp. brown sugar
1. Cut the quick bread into 1″ cubes and lay out on a tray overnight to dry out some. Add the strawberries to a sealable container and squeeze in the lime juice. Seal the container, shake them strawberries around, and then let sit in the fridge overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 175 ºC (350º F). In a small bowl whisk together eggs and milk. Slice vanilla bean vertically and scrape beans into the bowl as well.
3. Grease a small baking pan (I think mine is about 6″ x 8″ x 3″) with butter, and layer the macerated strawberries on the bottom of the pan. Layer the dried out quick bread cubes on top of the strawberries, and then pour the liquid ingredients over everything – it’s ok if the liquid doesn’t come all the way up to the surface of the bread, because it will soak it up as it bakes. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the top in between the crevasses from the cubed bread, and then sprinkle the entire pan with brown sugar, which which caramelize and create a nice crust as it bakes.
4. Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the egg/milk mixture has set in the bread. The bottom will be a bit liquidy from the juices of the strawberries coming out, and you may see strawberry juice bubbling towards the top – this is a good thing as it means the bread is also absorbing strawberry goodness. Once set, crank up the heat to 200º C (400 ºF) for about 5-10 minutes so that the top really forms a nice crust.
5. Remove from the oven, and serve immediately because it’s best hot.
Also submitted to – Gluten Free Wednesdays