It may be illegal to recite poetry while skiing, or to keep a single guinea pig (pairs only, for the sake of the animal’s mental health), but Switzerland sure does get it right when it comes to food. You’ll definitely see some dishes you’ve seen in Switzerland’s closely related cousin nations like Austria and Germany, but don’t make the mistake of thinking they are exactly the same. Switzerland has a few treats in store for you yet…
A popular New Year’s tradition also in parts of the Netherlands, France, and Germany, raclette is the name of both a type of cheese and a dish consisting of melted cheese and ham, potatoes or vegetables. The best part about true raclette that you make yourself with a raclette tray is that it’s DIY and completely customisable. A home raclette set has a hot plate on the top that you can put some veggies and ham on, and slots underneath for the individual raclette trays. Once your add-ins are done, arrange them in your little tray, maybe add some potatoes (pre boiled) and a slice of raclette cheese. Slide it in under the hot plate and wait for melty goodness!
Not such a potato lover? It’s ok, we can still be friends – as long as you like cheese. Mac and cheese, to be more specific. In usual Swiss, overachieving style, they’ve taken mac and cheese and made it EPIC. Älplermagronen has its origins in the huts of Swiss shepherds in the mountains, who needed to create a dish out of ingredients they usually had lying around these basic huts. So they came up with this dish of pasta, cheese, smoked ham, and potatoes. It’s usually served with applesauce, so the tart-sweetness helps cut through the heaviness of the cheese.
Ah that’s right, classic cheese fondue. Believe it or not, it’s not restricted to seedy ’70s swingers parties – but it isn’t quite as traditional as you might think. In the 1930s the Swiss Cheese Union promoted fondue as a national dish to increase cheese consumption, and was promoted aggressively after WWII. It became popular in the US in the 1960s, and is now commonly associated with Switzerland. But that’s cool, because it is a giant pot of cheese, and should absolutely be indulged in! Real fondue is a mixture of cheeses, wine, some cornstarch to prevent separation, and the pot is rubbed with a garlic clove.
Feeling a bit thirsty after all that rösti and cheese? Yeah, you are. Never fear, Rivella is here! Switzerland’s answer to Coke is not a thing like Coke. In fact, it’s a carbonated lemonade like beverage, produced from milk whey, so contains lactose, lactic acid, and minerals. Sounds yummy, right? It actually is quite delicious, and found only in Switzerland, so make sure to grab a bottle from a supermarket while you’re there!
Although hipster breakfast cafes in Australia like to give you a rösti alongside bacon and eggs for brekkie, I like to unashamedly eat a giant plate of grated, fried potato for dinner and call it ‘cultural research.’ Enter the Swiss rösti, the carbs you’ve been dreaming of. Think of a giant potato fritter, either served alongside a traditional dish of veal in a cream sauce, or alone, with toppings such as a fried egg (obviously with runny yolk), or cheese and bacon, onions, mushrooms, ham… the list goes on.