Culture Shock: Baking in Geneva


Now that we’re starting to settle into the quiet Swiss life, the one thing I’m really missing is cooking and baking. I’ve complained about my total lack of cooking instruments in our temporary apartment before, but it’s starting to get to me. I can’t make … anything. It’s so annoying. And I keep on forgetting what I don’t have, and being like, yes, a flambe is a great idea and then realize as I’m searching down the ingredients that it’s really not a good idea at all.

The other thing that I’m finding, and I’m sure this is true whenever you move to a new place with a different culture, is that you’re not going to find your usual ingredients in the grocery store. I’m not talking about brands – I was prepared to not have the brands of stuff that I’m used to. To be honest, my usual “brands” are the cheap store brands. I mean, Z thinks that you should pay more for things, because you’re paying for quality, but I think if I get the store stuff, I’m actually just not buying into all the branding bullshit that costs you way more for the exact same thing. But that’s a discussion for another time.

The problem is that baking supplies are limited to non-existant. My theory is this: the Swiss are so surrounded by amazing boulangeries and patisseries and chocolateries, all overflowing with ready to go stunning confectionary, that there is no need to bake. Hence the total lack of baking supplies in the store. I bought the largest size of flour they had today in the store – half a kilo. For those that don’t bake very much, here’s a tip: that’s not very much. Most stores are completely lacking in very typical ingredients – baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, that kind of stuff.

But the stuff they do offer! In a regular grocery, there is usually a whole section of marzipan creations – something that I have yet to get into in my baking career. Ingredients that I would have to track down in exotic food stores in Canada are just casually laid out on the shelves – like vanilla pods and rose water and twelve different types of gelatin sugar. And all for really reasonable prices. It’s amazing. I’m not going to lie – even though I have nothing planned for them yet, I keep on grabbing these things just in case it’s a mistake and all the vanilla pods are going to disappear from the shelves tomorrow. My cabinets are starting to look like some bizarre gourmet baker hoarder’s. Actually, maybe that’s just what I am.

Meanwhile, when I was at a specialty food store, I jumped for joy for finding the tiniest little box of baking soda. Maybe I can make cookies someday. Only *horrors* they don’t have any chocolate chips here. I had to break that one to Z. He was pretty upset to hear that. What do you think? Should I take some of that delicious high-grade chocolate you can find lying around on the streets here and smash it into chips, or go with the flow and start to bake like a Swiss?

Speaking of baking like a Swiss, my relocation agent explained to me about vanilla – vanilla extract is a pretty common ingredient in most baking, and I could find it NOWHERE. Apparently, it comes in a powder here. After she told me that, I think I found it – a small jar of vanilla bourbon powder. Damned if I have any idea how to use it, but you can bet your ass it’s in my hoarder’s shelf.

I did see a recipe on facebook that I thought I could use – it has basically no ingredients and is easy enough that my one-year-old could help me. Fantastically enough, the main ingredient is bananas, his favourite food in the world right now – the little monkey can’t get enough of them. So I set everything on the ground and we made these banana oatmeal cookies together. It was messy, but I get such a joy seeing him have so much fun. He mashed the bananas with a barbecue fork – please don’t judge me.


X was so excited to mush into these. You mush two bananas with a cup of oatmeal (I have no measuring cups, so I just eyeballed it). Then you can add other stuff, like raisins, walnuts and chocolate chips. Due to our sorry lack of chocolate chips, I just added raisins and walnuts, about 1/4 cup. Then you form them into balls and pop them into the oven at 350F for 15 minutes.


X “helped” me form these, meaning he broke them all apart with his barbecue fork, because he’s destructive that way. In the end, a sort-of cookie, sort-of banana granola bar appeared. I’m not going to lie to you guys: they are not great. I have named them: Banana Turds. And X, for whom I was making these, wants nothing to do with them. He’s all like, bitch please, I see that eclair you’re eating.

So all and all, it wasn’t a success. I kind of looked at these and thought you’re better than this. So I am going to try harder to make something worthwhile, that other people might actually eat. Maybe with vanilla pods and rose water …


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