Friday, 14 August 2009

Heidi, Peter and Greta make their bows

My name is most definitely not Heidi. I do not live in a farm on an Alp, nor do I live with a grouchy grandfather. I do, however, live in Switzerland. In a small, wine-growing, farming village; from my kitchen window, I can see goats and orchards- from my living-room window, I look across the road at the village school, behind which vineyards cover a steep hill going down to the train station. On one side of the house, it's the edge of the village- on the other, the centre. It's that small.

I live with my husband, whom I'm going to horrify by referring to as Peter (just to continue the Heidi idea- in case you've never read it, Peter was the goatherd), and our little daughter, whom I'm going to call Greta, because it's Germanic and fits with the other two names.

We moved to the village about four months ago, in April 2009. Before, we were living in an apartment in the growing suburbs of our Swiss city. A very nice apartment, but with a kitchen, alas, in one corner of the living room. An "open kitchen".

I hate open kitchens. Every time you fry an onion, you have to run around closing doors, or your pillow smells of fried onions. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but isn't always desirable. And as every good recipe (in my book) starts with "chop an onion"...

Peter, having a Lyonnaise grandmother, would point out that every good recipe then continues with "add 250g butter, half a bottle of white wine, half a litre of cream, then figure out what you're going to cook tonight", but then he doesn't cook. He just eats. Fortunately for me, he's actually quite happy with a salad for dinner too.

Greta, to our occasional despair, would probably say, if she were suddenly to figure out how to talk, "who needs all that stuff, take it away, just add garlic!" Our baby girl has a passion for garlic. Regular baby food, such as mashed potato, banana, apple sauce, is rejected with a wave of the hand that sends it hurtling to the floor, and any spoonful that has tricked its way into her mouth (nasty tricksy things, Mamas are) is spat out with disgust, as likely as not accompanied by wails and howls of despair, angst, and suffering.

Give her half a pot of Boursin, or Tartare, and she's very happy. When I make her risotto or pasta, I find myself adding 5 to 6 cloves of garlic... Come to think of it, after I portion it all out, she usually ends up with at least a clove of garlic per meal.

She is also very fond of radishes (the ones that make you sneeze, they're so strong), garlic sausage, raw carrots, and very expensive, well-aged cheese. Oh, and black chocolate. Milk chocolate, not so much, but she'll tolerate it. And she does love her Petit Suisses. After all, she is a little Swiss Miss!

As for me... well, other than fennel or anything that is aniseed-flavoured, I'll eat anything. But, oddly, I'd rather cook. Cook, and watch people eat what I cooked!

Hence this blog, which I hope will be a good record of what we eat.

We eat pretty healthily as it is- a lot of organic food (relatively cheap and very easy to find here), I try to not buy anything that has been shipped further than North Africa (but I do sometimes slip up), pretty seasonally (I don't buy apples in summer, for example), and, now that we've moved to the village and there are a number of farms selling their own produce... with the smallest number of food miles! None of this is really for health reasons- it's just that this is the food that we're both happy to eat.

I've also started foraging- blackberries from down by the river, mirabelles, apples, damsons and plums from trees growing wild nearby. I'm hoping to be able to pick mushrooms in autumn, but I will definitely be taking them to be identified by somebody who knows what they're doing.

As I was able to design my own kitchen (within certain limits!), I was able to cater to some long-cherished fantasies, and have put in a humungous freezer. And a similar fridge- here in Switzerland, most refrigerators are big enough for a litre of milk, a litre of juice, a hunk of cheese, a carton of eggs... and a lettuce takes up a whole shelf! Refrigerators for a person and a half! As long as they don't like cooking. So my new fridge is a joy, being taller than I am... and the freezer ditto, as I can now cook for Greta and freeze individual portions (instead of trying to fit half a portion down the side of the ice-cubes).

How do I cook? I cook a lot of vegetable-based meals- we're not vegetarians, but I tend to do one big meat meal every week, on a Sunday, and hope to extend it out over a few days. In the winter, this is often something like boeuf bourguignon, blanquette de veau... In the summer, more roast chicken. We eat a lot of pastas, a lot of risottos. In summer, a lot of salads for dinner- with Peter's only contribution to the cooking, an absolute gift for making the perfect dressing, and without measuring anything!

We hope to entertain more now that we have a bigger home, so there will be recipes there. I try to surprise our guests with dishes that they wouldn't expect- either going the very traditional route, as the above-mentioned recipes show, or going quite in the other direction! Being "anglo-saxon", most people around here expect me to be an atrocious cook (prejudice is alive and kicking!)- but our friends know that I'm really not that bad.

Especially when it comes to baking. I'm good at cakes. And I love to bake. Not that it does me much good- Peter isn't interested in "sweets"- he by far prefers savoury. Last weekend we went to a birthday party for a two-year old, whose father had invited us "on condition that Heidi bakes a cake". My cake was devoured, two people asked me for the recipe- and Peter didn't even bother trying it. Oh well- his loss!

I don't bake bread- I have in the past, when we lived in the Caribbean and I could only find steam-baked sandwich bread (which always tasted as though it had had sugar added to it!), and I might start again.

So you can expect a good hodge-podge, with links and photos where I can fit them in, of everything from Christmas pudding (I'm planning to make my own this year), to baby/toddler meals, and the occasional restaurant meal.

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