Week 1 in Switzerland: Cheese, Chocolate, and Wine

In a world full of French-speakers, we were alone. So, so alone. The air was cold, and the wind pierced our skin and created goosebumps in our souls. As the daylight slowly waned, we were sitting in a darkening room.

Then, in a flash of light, a bubbling golden vat appeared before us. Armed with our miniature pitchforks, we stabbed the last remnants of Mother Earth’s harvest and submerged the bread into the golden lava without mercy. As our pitchforks retreated, the bread emerged transformed, gleaming with hope. The creation touched our taste buds and we were saved! We were no longer mere mortals; we had achieved Suisse greatness!

This is how it feels every time you eat a single bite of Suisse cheese. Real Suisse cheese. We visited the Gruyère cheese factory earlier that day and were able to learn all about the intricate and precise process of cheesemaking. We were given audio handsets as a means of narration as we moved through each stage in the process. Our audio guide was a cow named Cherry. She spoke of how everything she eats creates the flavor of their cheeses and how the wheels aged in a cellar for months on end. Her closing words were, “My name is Cherry because I was born in cherry season, which is short and sweet, just like life itself.” This cow had a penchant for inciting in her listeners a quiet existential crisis. Was that worth 7 francs?

Gruyère Cellar – Mr Robotman turns each wheel and adds salt water while the cheese ages
Gruyère fondue that saved us from misery

From there, we learned that the history of chocolate is not for the faint of heart. At Maison Cailler, we paid 15 Suisse francs for an artfully and surprisingly frightening walk through time about the history of chocolate. Apparently, after the Spanish murdered all of the Aztecs and brought back a magical chocolate beverage to Europe, the church forbade consumption of it until eventually the Pope intervened and said that it could be consumed during Lent. There were wild light effects and rumbling thunder that caused the few young ones in the tour to experience a chocolate meltdown. Parents swiftly removed them out the side exit.

We also learned that the last beverage Marie Antoinette requested before meeting the business end of a guillotine was hot chocolate. We heard the loud sharp sound of the blade dropping and reflexively rubbed our throats. We left this part of the tour feeling somewhat mixed about our own indulgence towards chocolate, however that quickly dissipated when we were able to sample many of Cailler’s delicious offerings. We used our entry tickets as platters and stacked the chocolate neatly atop them.

The pearly white chocolate gates

Always surrounding us during this week of food indulgence have been green vines, heavy with plump and juicy fruit. The region we are staying in (Vaud) is dotted with vineyards and the harvest is itching to begin. We almost feel sympathy for these delicate vines, weighed down by the round, dark purple and green fruits we all know and love: pre-wine!

Despite our repeated attempts to offer our services to the various wineries and assist in easing this terrible burden on the vines, we have yet to receive any takers. These succulent beasts deserve American hands to hold them so that they know what freedom feels like. We will see if the Suisse vineyards and these Freedom Hands will ever meet.

That’s all for now!

Your American Seagles,

Amanda and Mike

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