Strange means ‘not previously encountered’, ‘unusual’ or ‘surprising’. With that in mind, many of the things that Americans eat are strange to the Swiss. Likewise, some of the things that Swiss put on their tables are strange to Americans. I guess the nice thing about ‘strange’ is that it’s not always bad, sometimes it’s good.
Strange Swiss Food Combinations
I’m sure the Swiss reading this are thinking “what kind of strange combination can she come up with? We don’t have any strange food combinations!” Well this is sort of true, but I did come up with a few.
For me, cheese and pears as a dessert seemed strange. Although I love cheese and pears are okay, too, I would have never come up with such a combo. But I must admit, it is pretty good.
A combination that is unusual for me is cherry brandy (kirsch) and chocolate! They are called “Cherry Brandy Stalks” and are chocolate tubes filled with kirsch. The Swiss love to bring these to dinner parties as a hostess gift.
The thing is, I love chocolate and can tolerate cherry brandy but putting the two together? No thank you. Even if I did like the combination, they are difficult to eat. You bite one end off, taking care not to spill any brandy. Then suck the brandy out as politely as possible and eat the chocolate. Or, you can just stuff the whole piece into your mouth at once. Worse would be taking a bite, not realizing there is liquid inside. That would create a big mess having it drip all over the place.
There is something good about receiving these as a gift. My craving for chocolate will never exceed my dislike for this combination. I will by no means gain weight just by having those in the house.
One of the things I found surprising in Switzerland was buttered bread or rolls. Strange? Really? You might say. But I found myself eating less and less bread and butter because it just didn’t taste as good in Switzerland. I mentioned this to Ben at some point and he said, “naturally”. The ‘normal’ butter in America was salted and the ‘normal’ butter in Switzerland wasn’t. Amazing, the things you learn.
Then there was the time my mom ordered tomatoes and mozzarella. She imagined they might come baked or grilled. She was served a plate full of sliced, raw tomatoes interspersed with slices of cold mozzarella. The word “surprise” doesn’t do her reaction justice. I think “shock” might come closer. For her that was a strange combination for sure.
Strange American Combinations
This brings me to the other side, what do Swiss think about some American food combinations? Likewise strange, to be sure. Looking at the combinations I chose, I can see Americans often like their combinations sweet.
My baked beans with bacon on top is a combination that the Swiss seem to like. Once I brought it to a barbeque. I got lots of compliments on how good it looked when I set it on the table. After the meat was done on the grill, everyone filled up their plates with the brought food. I got tons of compliments. Someone came up to me and asked what I had put in it; it was unexpectedly sweet! I never thought of my baked beans as sweet although I do put some molasses in it. I guess the combination of beans with salty bacon sweetened a bit with ketchup and molasses hit the Swiss spot. The proof being I didn’t take home any of the double batch I had made.
As a child I went to girl scout camps. This sweet treat called “smores” never failed to show up at the campfire. “Smore” is short for “some more”.
To make a smore you put one or two marshmallows on a stick. Warm them up to the point of melting over an open fire. Then you take two graham crackers, each with a piece of chocolate on them. The gooey marshmallows are sandwiched between the graham crackers and chocolate. The warm, usually burnt marshmallows melt the chocolate completing the sugary mess. Of course, when you’re finished eating you always want “some more”.
Nowadays I don’t eat smores; way too much sugar. As far as I know, although you can now buy marshmallows here you can’t get graham crackers. So I guess that will just stay one of those combinations that are only in America.
Speaking of sweet and marshmallows, my grandmother had a fantastic recipe for pineapple salad. When I came to Switzerland I wanted to contribute to the Christmas meal of ham and offered to make this. What goes better with ham than pineapples?
The original recipe called for lots of sugar and marshmallows. I left out the marshmallows when I couldn’t find them in the store. No biggie, I’m not really a marshmallow type of person. The pineapple is mixed with the juice, sugar, butter and some flour to make almost a pudding like sauce. It is then put on a bed of lettuce and served as a salad.
At the Christmas Eve family dinner everyone got a full plate of my pineapple salad. After they tried it I got a lot of polite “interesting”. Many were surprised that something so sweet was a salad. The general opinion was, it was good but tasted more like dessert, without the lettuce of course. How could they say this? This was a family recipe!
The following year, at the insistence of everyone, I was asked to make the “pineapple dessert” again. Um, who changed the name? It was obvious that the combination of pineapple and salad was not something “my” Swiss people liked. They liked pineapple and they liked salad; just not together. So, the pineapple salad turned into a much loved pineapple dessert. I never got the urge to add marshmallows to it even when they became available in stores. Also, I have changed the amount of sugar in the recipe to less than 1/3 the original amount. Sporadically I still make it as a salad but only for Ben and myself on special occasions.
Root Beer Float
In contrast to my pineapple salad, this is something that Ben would most definitely not eat. Root beer is not beer, it’s a carbonated beverage. As I have mentioned before, Ben likes to compare how root beer tastes with Johnson’s cleaning wax.
A root beer float is two scoops of vanilla ice cream in a glass and then filled with root beer. It is eaten with a long spoon then a straw is used to drink the liquid. It’s not bad or at least it I didn’t think so when I lived in the States. I’m not sure how it would taste to me after so many years of abstinence. But I’m fairly sure this is not a combination that any Swiss I know would eat/drink. I believe you can get root beer here and of course you can get ice cream, too. So it would be possible to make it, but would I? I doubt it.
When I was still living in the States, I worked at a Dairy Queen. Dairy Queen is a soft ice-cream chain. Among other things they sell root beer floats.
Once when I was training a new employee, a customer ordered a root beer float. I told her how to make it, which she did. The thing is, after you pour the root beer in, the carbonation makes for lots and lots of bubbles. You usually swivel a spoon in it to get rid of the bubbles so more drink can be poured in. I told the person this but she wanted it to go quicker. In addition to swirling a spoon she started to blow on the bubbles to help them go down! I told her she couldn’t do that and she would have to make another float. Ewww!