Culinary tales of Geneva

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A foodie savant: X has already discovered the joys of ripping off the top of the baguette and eating it on the way home from the grocery store.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that one of the things I’ve been most excited about in my move to Geneva is the food. I have been dreaming about markets that sell just about every food you could imagine, fresh baked bread still steaming from the oven at the boulangerie, locally grown produce and of course, chocolate. I’ve been waiting to get here so I could start creating decadent feasts for my family.

Two weeks in and I can’t say that I’m disappointed. Actually, let me qualify that. I’m definitely not disappointed with the food. It is spectacular. It was everything I imagined and more. The food markets everywhere. We buy a fresh loaf of bread almost everyday, and X is a big fan of the first bite out of it, little munchkin. The range of produce is extensive (I once saw a cart selling every single type of mushroom imaginable – back in Calgary my options were limited to two).

The chocolate is amazing. I don’t know if it’s because we came here around Easter time, but I can’t describe to you how much chocolate is found everywhere. In the grocery store, instead of one candy and chocolate aisle, there are four. People here like chocolate. Not to mention the adorable chocolateries found on every street corner.

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Making food taste good here requires no effort. It already tastes fantastic, so simplicity is the way to go. I made an Easter brunch yesterday, with French toast. Everything was as easy as possible; all whole real foods. Bread, eggs, milk, butter. Cream whipped by hand with a hint of maple, and fresh berries to go over top. Guys, it was pretty spectacular. I put out a bowl of raspberries, and all of a sudden the whole room smells like freshness – they are that good.

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The Easter bunny at our table after an egg hunt.

My disappointment, or rather frustration, lies with the limitations of the temporary apartment we’re staying in. We’ve had our share of problems with it (but we finally have laundry now, yay!) but I think for me the hardest part has been having a seriously lacking kitchen. It has plates, cutlery and a few pots, pretty much what will get you by if you need to boil some pasta kind of thing. Every time I go to prepare a meal, I discover something else I’m missing. A can opener. A frying pan (I gave in and bought one – you can’t survive without one for two months). A potato masher. A spatula. Weirdly enough, though, there are not one, not two, but three nutcrackers here. I guess that was the priority.

My Easter meal last night was another casualty of the sparse kitchen. Okay, I exaggerate, it turned out okay. But there were a few “huh” moments for me last night.

I made roast chicken with mashed potatoes and asparagus. Pretty simple, for the most part. Until I discovered there was no vegetable peeler, so I had to peel twenty little potatoes with a dull knife. I have the blisters to prove it! Then I realized that, without a masher, these potatoes aren’t going to be very mashed. I made do with a fork and the back of a ladle, but the lumps were almost distracting.

The chicken actually went really well. My first roast chicken and I used Jamie Oliver’s recipe. It was easy: a bed of veggies and garlic for the chicken to sit on, rubbed with olive oil, salt and pepper and stuffed with a lemon and fresh herbs. And just like that, two hours later, a delicious roast chicken with a hint of lemon. The meat was falling off the bone, it was so delicious. The roast veggies underneath I reused to make my stock. For some reason, all things chicken, including stock, are exorbitantly expensive here, so I didn’t want to lose the opportunity to make my own.

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Eventually it did all come together. I would say this is one of the best meals I’ve made in Geneva so far, and certainly the most ambitious. Nobody went to bed hungry, that’s for sure.

I’ve been talking up all this simple whole food here in Switzerland, but one thing that is not simple is the desserts you can find. They are these amazing concoctions of frothy awesomeness, usually, yes, stuffed with chocolate. Our dessert last night was found at a patisserie next door to an ancient stone house we’re considering moving to. The patisserie might just sway us in that direction!

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