Say Cheese

Like their language, the Swiss do not have any originality in their cuisine; it is either a German, a French or an Italian dish which has been adapted and finally began to be known as a Swiss delicacy.

On our visit to the chocolate factory at Broc, we had a break of about 3 hours in the village of Gruyere, famous for its cheese. Personally I am not very fond of cheese, mainly because of its tangy taste and milky odour and after a very unimpressive cheese factory tour, my impression on cheese worsened. But God had some other intentions for me; we had to have lunch in that cheesy village and each and every restaurant in the tiny central place served food only made of cheese.

I had no choice. Bravely I decided that I should try Swiss food. As suggested, we ordered for a raclette, a cheese fondue and a rostii. Our waitress said that the items would be served one at a time because we needed to eat them warm, if not hot and fondue would be the last item.

Gradually the dishes started arriving on our table. The first one was a raclette. It was a big layer of melted cheese spread out on a tray accompanied by tiny boiled potatoes with skin, tiny onions soaked in vinegar and gherkins. Raclette has derived its name from a French verb called racler which means ‘to scrape’ because that is the ultimate art of making this simple yet mouth-watering snack. Usually a half wheel of real raclette cheese preferably from the Valais region is used for preparing this. The cheese is scrapped off the top, bottom and rind and placed on a hot plate. Just as the cheese melts, it is scrapped off onto a plate and served immediately garnished with pepper and along with potatoes, onions and gherkins. After finishing off the raclette I could hear the hunger growls and consoled myself.

Next in line was the rostii. Rostii is basically a Swiss-German national dish. A not so impressive one but tastes good when served with a veal sausage, which is not usually the standard. Rostii is boiled and cooled potato, grated coarsely and fried in butter till the base is crisp. Salt, peppers are added naturally and herbs are sometimes added to add value. The potato slices are not singled out but remain stuck to each other and the crispiness of the base and the aroma of the butter add flavour.

Finally came in the grand treat of Cheese Fondue. The plates were removed and replaced by breadbaskets containing variety of breads of the crusty types. Then came in the grand item. A medium sized non-stick pan on a burner on a low flame. Inside the pan was the melted cheese, still bubbling because of the heat underneath with a superb aroma. Along came lots of slightly steamed vegetables and diced boiled chicken.

We were a little embarrassed, because everyone else from the surrounding tables looked inquisitively at the laying of the table and the get up of the dish. No one was there to teach us the next step. We pierced the veggies, chicken pieces and crusty bread pieces one after the other, dipped it in the cheese, mixed it well in cheese, gave a nice coating of the melted cheese and pulled the pieces out along with long thin strips of cheese and put it straight into our mouth. It melted then and there. Absolutely fantastic! The cheese tasted the tastiest I have ever had. The consistency was just right and especially the art of eating it impressed me a lot. Brandy or white wine is normally mixed in the cheese, therefore that taste lingers in the mouth even after finishing one round.

Cheese Fondue is normally made with a combination of two kind cheese; Gruyere and Emmentaler. A few cloves of crushed garlic are rubbed in the cooking pan. The cheese and wine are added and stirred continuously until it comes to a boil. Later a little bit of corn flour is mixed in brandy and added again on a reduced flame and finally seasoned with pepper and nutmeg and served hot. We finished off every piece of food and every drop of cheese and what added to our satisfaction was that, a few of our neighbouring tables ordered the same stuff. Probably they were impressed on how we treated the dish…