I can hardly believe it. I have eaten bread and cheese almost every day for lunch since I arrived in Switzerland six weeks ago, and I’m not sick of it yet. This is quite amazing given that I don’t usually even like to have the same thing for dinner two days in a row. However, it is not just any bread and cheese, it is Swiss bread and cheese. In Europe, pre-sliced sandwich bread is not the norm. Instead, we buy a loaf of fresh-baked whole-grain bread every couple days or so. Fresh bread is completely different from packaged American bread, and I never get tired of eating it. And of course Switzerland is known for its cheese. My favorite type is Gruyere, but there are many other delicious varieties. Thus, by varying which type of bread and cheese I eat each day, and adding Dijon mustard, tomatoes, and lettuce on occasion, I am still thoroughly enjoying my lunches of bread and cheese. By the way, these lunches taste the best when sitting on the top of a mountain which I have just hiked up.
There are many other delicious foods in Switzerland besides bread and cheese. A few of my favorites, most of which are hard to find in the United States, are:
- Nutella. This chocolate-hazelnut spread has become popularized in the United States as well, but it is best on fresh Swiss bread (sometimes with jam). You don’t want to know how many jars we have already gone through since we’ve been here.
- Fromage frais. Literally, “fresh cheese”. Sometimes called “fromage blanc” (white cheese). Although somewhat similar to sour cream, cottage cheese (except smooth), or yogurt, it is not quite like anything you can find in the US. It goes well with jam and/or granola mixed in. It is also high in protein and has no sugar added, and it’s possible to find low-fat varieties. All in all, a delicious and healthy snack.
- Instant powdered soup. The most well-known name brand is Knorr. These soups come in small packets; all you do is mix with a liter or water and boil. A recent favorite is cream of asperagus, with fresh broccoli added for variety. Add some Camembert cheese spread on fresh bread and you have a delicious supper.
- Birchermuesli and hazelnut flavored yogurt. In general, all yogurt in Switzerland tastes better than American yogurts. These two flavors are particuarly yummy and do not exist in the US as far as I know.
- Dark chocolate with whole hazelnuts. All chocolate in Switzerland is incomparable, but I think this is my favorite kind. It is actually a bit hard to find even here, as the more common type is milk chocolate rather than dark.
- Spreadable honey. The honey you commonly find in the US is thin and drippy. Here, they make spreadable honey, which goes well on the fresh bread and on apples.
You may have noticed a theme of hazelnuts in this list. Nutella is probably the only mainstream item in the US containing hazelnuts, but they are quite common here. Almost all the good cereals and some of the breads contain hazelnuts, and as you can see from the list they show up in other places as well.
There are a few foods that I was used to eating in the US and which are difficult to find here (or quite expensive). These include:
- Refried beans. This was a staple for many of our dinner dishes, so coming up with different things to make for dinner has been a bit of a challenge.
- Canned salmon. Another staple for many of our dinner dishes. Tuna just isn’t the same.
- Almond butter. They do have peanut butter here (which I can’t eat), but no almond butter. You’d think with all the hazelnuts they’d make hazelnut butter, but so far the only spreadable thing involving hazelnuts that I’ve found is Nutella. Which is not exactly comparable to almond butter since the first ingredient is sugar.
- Dried fruit. You can get dried fruit here, but it is very expensive and all has sulfates added.
- Raw or toasted nuts. Like the dried fruit, you can find nuts but they are very expensive.
So there you have it. One of the many adjustments to living in a different country is the different foods you encounter, but those different foods include many that I will miss once I return to the US!