Say “Fromage” – Embracing Switzerland’s French Side (Dishes)
The Swiss are an efficient people. Which is why it’s so interesting that the country hasn’t one language – but FOUR. And not even one called ” Swiss.” There’s Swiss-German, plus French, Italian and little-known Romansch. Just like language, the cuisine in Switzerland is equally diverse, with regions cooking up their own traditional dishes.
The food of the Romands people – those living in the French-speaking part of Switzerland – is well regarded throughout the entire country, and for good reason. Taking the best of French gastronomy and blending it with local ingredients, recipes take on an air of refreshing simplicity. And it all begins with cheese.
Time to Ooey and Ahh: Fondue & Raclette
The first known recipe for modern cheese fondue was published in 1875, and was already presented as a Swiss national dish. The traditional story begins during Switzerland’s long, bitter winters, when mountain dwellers in the French-speaking Canton of Neuchâtel would preserve their fromage and bread to sustain themselves. But in fact, it was originally a town-dweller’s dish, created with rich (in taste and cost) Gruyère.
Less well-known but no less delicious, Raclette is also a dish indigenous to parts of Switzerland. In medieval times, cow herders would take the cheese with them to and from the mountainous pastures. In the evening around a campfire, they would place the cheese next to the fire and, when it had reached the perfect softness, scrape it on top of some bread. The term raclette derives from the French word racler, meaning, “to scrape.”
Get on (the Cheese) Board
Enjoy a first-hand taste of this eponymous cheese when you pass through the town of Gruyères on board another deliciously sweet treat: the Chocolate Train. Ride in first-class comfort on a 1915 Belle Epoque Pullman car, starting in jazzy Montreux on the Swiss Riviera. The journey ends in Broc, home to the Cailler-Nestlé chocolate factory. As you can imagine, this is a very popular train to take, and therefore requires a reservation.
Wash it Down
What’s cheese without wine? In the UNESCO protected vineyards of the Lauvaux region, the beauty of the landscape pairs perfectly with a glass of chasselas, the most common white wine here. If you prefer red, Pinot Noir is found not only in the French area, but also where German is spoken. Looking for something a bit more, say, mystical?
You’re not hallucinating. Absinthe is back.
This once forbidden drink that drove artists to insanity is officially being distilled again in Val-de-Travers – its birthplace in the Jura region of Switzerland. Long banned by an anti-Absinthe article in the Swiss constitution, it was legalized again in 2005. Today, the “green fairy” is exported to many countries.