Potatoes: an essential part of the traditional Swiss diet
If there’s one thing we have plenty of in Switzerland, it’s potatoes. I didn’t even like potatoes before I came here and discovered all the subtle differences of texture, taste and all the ways of using them in cooking.
Potatoes are an essential ingredient in almost any traditional Swiss meal. This year’s crop is already starting to show up in local markets.
Large Number of Varieties of Potatoes in Switzerland
The official 2007 Swisspatat list (provided by Agridea, the Swiss agricultural research station) includes 31 different varieties, along with lists for various seasons and types of potatoes, as well as recipes for everyday use as well as for special occasions.
You can take a look at the 31 varieties in the table at the bottom right on the last page of the Swisspatat article to get an idea of which potatoes to look for at what time of the year.
Different Types of Potatoes for Different Uses
There are basically 4 types of potatoes, according to Swisspatat:
Firm or “salad” potatoes. These potatoes do not burst open when cooking. They are moist, fine-grained and not mealy, and can be used in most dishes, with the exception of mashed potatoes and purées.
All-purpose medium-firm potatoes. The skin on these potatoes opens only slightly on cooking. They are somewhat mealy, on the dry side, and have a fine, grainy texture. They are tasty and can be used for most all purposes.
Mealy potatoes. These potatoes burst when cooked, but they are tender, mealy and rather dry. They have a large grain and strong taste and are used mostly for industrial purposes.
Extra-mealy potatoes. These are basically not for cooking and are used for feeding livestock or to make starch, due to their dryness and hard texture.
The Vergers d”Aigle et d’Yvorne is tucked into the heart of the Chablais region in French-speaking Switzerland. For more than 40 years now, they have been growing a wide range of fruit, grown under strict environmentally-friendly conditions. This fruit expresses the true terroir of the Chablais region.
Their fruit, including more than 40 varieties of apples both antique and modern, are available at producer prices, much fresher than store-bought apples, with more than 20 varieties available. The website lists the expected dates for each fruit grown.
In September, they also sell the cherished Fellenberg plums.
In season, you can pick your own cherries, with a choice of over 10 varieties.
Bertrand et Martine Cheseaux also offer a wide range of local artisanal products, including oils, vinegars, apple juice, eggs (great quality!), honey and fresh vegetables.
This year, in the context of the Semaine du Goût, or “tasting week”, which runs from September 13 to 23, 2013, they will be offering guided tours of their orchard of some 10 varieties of antique apples, along with tasting. This will take place on Saturday, September 21, with visits at 10 A.M. and 2:00 P.M. It is advisable to reserve a place. To reserve, call 41 (0)79 397 59 72 send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Les Vergers d’Aigle et d’Yvorne Bertrand & Martine Cheseaux Route d’Evian 32 CH – 1860 AIGLE Switzerland
“I dislike the thought that some animal has been made miserable to feed me. If I am going to eat meat, I want it to be from an animal that has lived a pleasant, uncrowded life outdoors, on bountiful pasture, with good water nearby and trees for shade.” (What Are People For?)
“Eating is an agricultural act.” (What Are People for Essays By Wendell Berry)
The passive American consumer, sitting down to a meal of pre-prepared food, confronts inert, anonymous substances that have been processed, dyed, breaded, sauced, gravied, ground, pulped, strained, blended, prettified, and sanitized beyond resemblance to any part of any creature that ever lived. The products of nature and agriculture have been made, to all appearances, the products of industry. Both eater and eaten are thus in exile from biological reality.
Eating with the fullest pleasure – pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance – is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living in a mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.” “A person who undertakes to grow a garden at home, by practices that will preserve rather than exploit the economy of the soil, has his mind precisely against what is wrong with us… What I am saying is that if we apply our minds directly and competently to the needs of the earth, then we will have begun to make fundamental and necessary changes in our minds. We will begin to understand and to mistrust and to change our wasteful economy, which markets not just the produce of earth, but also the earth’s ability to produce.
But even in the much-publicized rebellion of the young against the materialism of the affluent society, the consumer mentality is too often still intact: the standards of behavior are still those of kind and quantity, the security sought is still the security of numbers, and the chief motive is still the consumer’s anxiety that he is missing out on what is “in.” In this state of total consumerism – which is to say a state of helpless dependence on things and services and ideas and motives that we have forgotten how to provide ourselves – all meaningful contact between ourselves and the earth is broken. We do not understand the earth in terms either of what it offers us or of what it requires of us, and I think it is the rule that people inevitably destroy what they do not understand.” (pg. 85, “Think Little“) (The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry)
Eduardo Amorim / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
“Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. He is producing something to eat, which makes him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but he is also enlarging, for himself, the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating. (pg. 88, “Think Little”) (The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry)
“…the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.” (The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry)
“The Satisfactions of the Mad Farmer…the quiet in the woods of a summer morning, the voice of a pewee passing through it like a tight silver wire; …” (The Collected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1957-1982)
“If we apply our minds directly and competently to the needs of the earth, then we will have begun to make fundamental and necessary changes in our minds. We will begin to understand and to mistrust and to change our wasteful economy, which markets not just the produce of the earth, but also the earth’s ability to produce. We will see that beauty and utility are alike dependent upon the health of the world. But we will also see through the fads and the fashions of protest. We will see that war and oppression and pollution are not separate issues, but are aspects of the same issue. Amid the outcries for the liberation of this group or that, we will know that no person is free except in the freedom of other persons, and that man’s only real freedom is to know and faithfully occupy his place – a much humbler place than we have been taught to think – in the order of creation. (pg.89, “Think Little”)” (The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry)
“He imagines a necessary joy in things that must fly to eat.”
“Until we understand what the land is, we are at odds with everything we touch. And to come to that understanding it is necessary, even now, to leave the regions of our conquest – the cleared fields, the towns and cities, the highways – and re-enter the woods. For only there can a man encounter the silence and the darkness of his own absence. Only in this silence and darkness can he recover the sense of the world’s longevity, of its ability to thrive without him, of his inferiority to it and his dependence on it. Perhaps then, having heard that silence and seen that darkness, he will grow humble before the place and begin to take it in – to learn from it what it is. As its sounds come into his hearing, and its lights and colors come into his vision, and its odors come into his nostrils, then he may come into its presence as he never has before, and he will arrive in his place and will want to remain. His life will grow out of the ground like the other lives of the place, and take its place among them. He will be with them – neither ignorant of them, nor indifferent to them, nor against them – and so at last he will grow to be native-born. That is, he must reenter the silence and the darkness, and be born again. (pg. 27, “A Native Hill”)” (The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry)
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About Jonell Galloway
Jonell Galloway grew up on Wendell Berry and food straight from a backyard Kentucky garden. She is a freelance writer. She attended Le Cordon Bleu and La Varenne cooking schools in Paris and the Académie du Vin, worked for the GaultMillau restaurant guide and CityGuides in France and Paris and for Gannett Company in the U.S., and collaborated on Le tour du monde en 80 pains / Around the World with 80 Breads with Jean-Philippe de Tonnac in France; André Raboud, Sculptures 2002-2009 in Switzerland; Ma Cuisine Méditerranéenne with Christophe Certain in France, At the Table: Food and Family around the World with Ken Albala, and a biography of French chef Pierre Gagnaire. She ran a cooking school in France, and owned a farm-to-table restaurant, The Three Sisters’ Café, with her two sisters in the U.S. She organizes the Taste Unlocked bespoke food and wine tasting awareness workshops with James Flewellen, is an active member of Slow Food, and runs the food writing website The Rambling Epicure. Her work has been published in numerous international publications and she has been interviewed on international public radio in France, Switzerland, and the U.S. She has just signed on at In Search of Taste, a British print publication, and is now working on a book, What to Eat in Venice
Wendell Berry: No technological fix to climate change
A Mesolithic Dinner: Food, Wine and Art by Jane Le Besque
Jane Le Besque hosted a “mesolithic dinner” on June 30, 2013, in her home in the Pays de Gex just over the border in France, an event sponsored by Slow Food Geneva. The dinner was cooked using ancient flavor combinations and techniques, and served on split logs onto which slate plates were placed and used as plates.
What Food Did Jane Le Besque Serve at Her Mesolithic Dinner?
Although Jane’s dinner was labeled “Mesolithic”, it was indeed much more than that. She covered the evolution of food from the post-glacial hunter-gather periods, through the Mesolithic and Neolithic, and going on to the Ancient Greeks and Romans, centering on Europe.
It started with the Mesolithic era, with an assortment of coastal and lake fish, eel, root vegetables and wild greens. The meal then slipped in to the Neolithic era with galettes made from ground lentils, peas and barley, served with spit-roasted boar. The menu ended with an Iron-Age “travelers pack” of dried fruits and dried-porridge slices fried in cumin and butter. The Bronze Age brought blue cheese and butter.
Drinks consisted of mead, more often referred to as “honey wine,” more in the style of the ancient Greeks and Romans than of more ancient peoples, and beer.
What is the Mesolithic?
As a reminder, the Mesolithic Age refers to the pre-agricultural period between 10,000 and 5,000 BCE in Europe, and variations of this period in other parts of the world. The term “pre-agricultural” is key in understanding what ingredients were available. The three terms paleolithic, mesolithic and mesolithic refer to what is generally called the “Stone Age,” i.e. the post-glacial hunter-gatherer period, when humans started to use stone tools and food was gathered rather than farmed.
During the early Stone Ages or paleolithic (2.6 million years ago to around 10,000 BP), humans used some stone tools and utensils, but many tools were made from organic matter such as bone, fibers, and wood. Hunting and gathering were the chief ways of providing food. During the neolithic, starting around 10,200 BCE and ending between 4,500 to 2,000 BCE, depending on the location, we saw the beginning of farming. The mesolithic overlapped the other two ages, once again, at different times in different places. Metal tools brought these three Stone Ages to an end.
Jane Le Besque, artist and Mesolithic chef, serving mead
Early Stone Age cooking was generally on leaves or directly over the embers, although clay cookware has recently been found in China dating from 19,2000–20,000 years ago, during the ice age. Stone Age plates usually consisted of a rock or other flattish surface found in nature, such as the flattened split logs Jane used in the same manner as we use wooden tables today. Earthenware did not appear on the dinner table until much later.
What Did You Usually Eat at Mesolithic Dinners?
What did they eat? Pretty much whatever they found and killed that was edible: meat, fish, wild plants. The specifics of this depended on the location, climate and season. Meals included the day’s finds. This might consist of berries, wild greens and other wild vegetables and plants.
Meat and later fish were not an everyday affair. They were difficult to come by and difficult to preserve, depending on the location (salt was found in Romania as early as 10,000 years ago). Stone Age people ate very little grain, since agriculture didn’t exist yet. Hazelnuts and other nuts were often roasted, and stored for winter. Wild boar was common; dairy products and cheese were on the menu, although a limited variety.
About Jane Le Besque
Jane Le Besque lives and works with her family at the foot of the French Jura, a few minutes from Geneva, in the foothills of the Jura mountains.
She was born in England and has a Breton grandfather, hence the name. Since graduating from Birmingham Art College in 1986, she continued her studies at l’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. She afterwards lived and worked in Toulouse, London, and now outside Geneva.
Jane has always painted. She is her happiest walking through the woods and gathering berries, mushrooms, acorns, flowers and leaves to use in her cooking and painting.
One might say Jane has been interested in mesolithic cooking even before she learned the word. As a child, she spent her time gathering the wild things she now uses in her paintings, making dresses out of them.
Her paintings are an intense reflection of her “gatherer” spirit. The Mesolithic dinner was held in her studio, lined with her paintings of flora of all types.
Are you a Grist? This word was recently added to the Urban Dictionary.
Origin of the Term “Femivore”
The word was coined by Peggy Orenstein in her essay “The Femivore’s Dilemma” for today’s New York Times Magazine, says Natural News, and is obviously inspired by the term “locavore.”
Educated career women, or “femivores”, all over the U.S. are choosing to give up their careers and go back to the farm (sometimes an urban farm) and back to the kitchen — often the same women who refused to take anything even vaguely similar to a Home Economics class, much less a class in agriculture. DIY, raising chickens and gardening are back, and there is an abundance resources available on the Internet for those who are new at it offering detailed how-to’s and recipes for all of it, with popular DIY sites such as Mother Earth News, Middleground Farm, and Mother Earth News. Femivores often reach out from their newly chosen isolation through blogs and social networks, and share their discoveries, successes and failures with other femivores, such as writer Esmaa Self on Middleground Farm or “backyard eggs”.
This became the subject of a heated debate a few weeks ago when Michael Pollan’s book came out. On Is Michael Pollan a sexist pig? Emily Matchar questioned whether Pollan was a “sexist pig” in saying “we need to get back in the kitchen,” since “American women cook 78 percent of dinners, make 93 percent of the food purchases, and spend three times as many hours in the kitchen as men.”
Michael Pollan Wants Women to Get Back in the Kitchen
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Photo courtesy of Ilian
to philosophical and literary
The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture (Photo credit: elycefeliz)
“A Rambling Epicure”: a short article about my work
One great thing about spending 3 days with a group of like-minded people, who have come from all over the country (and Switzerland) to pay homage to their “spiritual guide”, Wendell Berry, is that the audience is already filtered, and you can be sure to meet people you can relate to and that you will stay in contact with.
Wendell Berry speaking in Frankfort, Indiana
Such is the case with Elias Crim, a native Texan who spent “several good years studying classics and medieval Italian at U.C. Berkeley before wasting several more years in financial journalism around Chicago.” Crim has also written for The American Scholar, TheAmerican Conservative, the Washington Times and The Chicago Observer.
This is the only photo ID I could muster up and I think it rather amusing.
He also runs a website, Solidarity Hall, which he describes as “as a hospitable old hostelry, a mental oasis in the deserted landscapes that surround us. We no longer have the coffeehouses of eighteenth-century London, where Samuel Johnson and his friends said more of substance in an hour than our blogs today could manage in a week. Nor do we have a local culture of pubs such as Chesterton’s Old Cheshire Cheese, where friendship could flourish easily, even amidst clashing opinions.” I thoroughly recommend that you take a look and start a conversation of your own.
Elias was so kind to publish this article, “A Rambling Epicure,” about my work after the Wendell Berry conference. I invite you to take a look.
Start here and then continue on Solidarity Hall:
Jonell Galloway is surely the only person from Hardinsburg, Kentucky, to ever study Sanskrit. But that’s secondary. More important is the way this spiritual daughter of Wendell Berry has developed the Rambling Epicure, an encyclopedic and literate website which describes itself thusly: “A gastronome’s guide to mindful eating. A serious approach to real-food shopping, cooking, and dining.”
Many times, after I have finished a lecture on the decline of American farming and rural life, someone in the audience has asked, “What can city people do?” “Eat responsibly,” I have usually answered. Of course, I have tried to explain what I mean by that, but afterwards I have invariably felt there was more to be said than I had been able to say. Now I would like to attempt a better explanation.
I begin with the proposition that eating is an agricultural act. Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting and birth. Most eaters, however, are no longer aware that this is true. They think of food as an agricultural product, perhaps, but they do not think of themselves as participants in agriculture. They think of themselves as “consumers.”
The Times They are a-Changin’: Move Towards a Local Economy
After a few very difficult years, we are now only starting to talk about the importance, and even necessity, of maintaining and supporting a local economy. This is important not only to our health and taste buds, but also to our vital economic self-sufficiency. It is perfectly in line with the concept of Mindful Eating, and, by definition, involves local farmers as well as others who contribute to eating and drinking.
For 50 or 60 years, we have let ourselves believe that as long as we have money we will have food. This is a mistake. If we continue our offenses against the land and the labor by which we are fed, the food supply will decline, and we will have a problem far more complex than the failure of our paper economy. The government will bring forth no food by providing hundreds of billions of dollars to the agribusiness corporations.