GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – In a rare move, a medical study of a Mediterranean diet’s impact on cardiovascular problems proved so conclusive the study was abandoned early, after nearly five years. The study, published 25 February in the New England Journal of Medicine, included 7,447 persons considered at risk, and it put them on three diets.
A Mediterrean diet’s “salient components … reportedly associated with better survival include moderate consumption of ethanol (mostly from wine), low consumption of meat and meat products, and high consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, fish, and olive oil”, the authors write.
The study provides the strongest support yet from researchers on the potential for the diet from the region to help prevent heart attacks and strokes. Wine producers, who have long argued that small quantities of wine can be beneficial, will be pleased to see support for their arguments, an antidote to growing pressure in some countries to limit advertising because of alcohol abuse.
The authors conclude that “In this trial, an energy-unrestricted Mediterranean diet supplemented with either extra-virgin olive oil or nuts resulted in an absolute risk reduction of approximately 3 major cardiovascular events per 1000 person-years, for a relative risk reduction of approximately 30%, among high-risk persons who were initially free of cardiovascular disease. These results support the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for cardiovascular risk reduction. They are particularly relevant given the challenges of achieving and maintaining weight loss.”
The work was carried out at several research centres in Spain and has a long list of authors.
The first thing we’ve noticed in our household is the packaging, silly amounts of it.
Lo and behold, a side benefit of this new system is that our food suppliers are suddenly motivated to provide simpler packaging.
Here’s the chicken we’ll be eating tonight, no longer delivered with a plastic holder. It’s NaturaFarm brand from Coop and yes, I paid more for the little bird, but this is a trend I’m happy to encourage.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The Vieux Bois restaurant, which provides the practicum experience for students at the Ecole Hôtelière de Genève (EHG) has just been awarded the prize for best company for training by the Association de la Cité des Métiers et de la Formation in Geneva. Jury members came from the association as well as Geneva’s sports and education departments and two of the largest unions.
The prize is awarded for excellence in training, respect for trade and social obligtions and for providing equal opportunities.
The EHG in 2011 became, for the first time, one of the world’s top 10 hotel schools in the key rankings from Taylor Nelson Sofres, bringing to five the number of Swiss hospitality schools in the top 10.
The Vieux Bois restaurant is owned by Gastronomia, a Swiss hotel-restaurant industry association.
Video: Gilles Desplanches on how to make a mille-feuille
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – 1,222 metres long, 4,207 kilos heavy and, ultimately, more than 30,000 slices: Geneva pastrymaker Gilles Desplanches decided to celebrate its 25th birthday in style by creating the world’s largest mille-feuille. Sunday at Palexpo in Geneva the giant pastry was given the thumbs up by the Guinness Book of Records, which judged it officially the world’s largest, breaking a record set in Belgium in 1992.
The CHF100,000 to be raised from the sale of the slices goes to the breast cancer group Réseau Cancer du Sein/Association Savoir Patient (ASAP).
The recipe: 3.5 hours to whip it up, 25 pastry chefs, uncounted volunteers, 864 litres of cream, 576 litres of milk, 600 kilos of flour, 432 kilos of butter and 360 kilos of fondant.
Orders for slices will be delivered Monday.
We’re eating more than 400 grams of cheese a week per person
BERN, SWITZERLAND – The Swiss cheese industry benefited in the first five years of free trade with the European Union, a study released 30 October shows. Exports slowed down in 2011 due to the strong Swiss franc, but in the first half of 2012 the trade balance remained positive.
The free trade market also appears to have helped us eat more cheese in Switzerland, with consumption up 12 percent since 2000, as imports helped bring down prices and increase variety.
We now eat 21.44 kg of cheese per person per year in Switzerland, more than 400 grams per person a week. Germany and Italy come close and the French eat slightly more, according to figures from the Swissmilk.
The country produced 182,000 tons of cheese in 2011, up from 161,000 seven years earlier. Fresh cheese accounts for more than 25 percent of the total, the largest share, followed by semi-hard cheeses with 21.5 percent and Gruyere with nearly 16 percent of production.
Switzerland steadily lost market share in the EU during the 1990s. By 2003 it was exporting 40,000 tons of cheese to the EU annually, down by about 12,000 tons from a decade earlier. From 2002 to 2007 protective measures were gradually removed and by 2007 an open market was in place.
A study commissioned by the Office of Agriculture and carried out during the first six months of 2012 shows that as a result, Switzerland has a positive trade balance, both in terms of quantity and monetary value. It increased production and exports to the EU while also importing more cheese, mainly soft and fresh cheeses.
Swiss cheese imports into the EU have increased more than cheese imports overall, increasing Swiss market share, particularly in Germany, Austria and France.
The negative element for the Swiss in the trade shift is the fall in Emmenthal exports, down 32 percent between 2003 and 2011, while the export of all other cheeses combined has risen 100 percent. Emmenthal lost its earlier special status with the EU, which allowed conditional imports.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Since 12 million people have viewed this video, you might already know how to separate eggs this way, but it was news to me. Anyone tried it?
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND – The lessons began in Zurich and were continued in Pont de Brent near Lausanne, and finally confirmed beyond a doubt in New York: 36-year-old chef Daniel Humm at Eleven Madison Park restaurant was named the James Beard 2012 “outstanding chef”.
The award, given to the Aargau-born chef for his work at the Michelin three-star address in Manhattan, is one of the most coveted US culinary awards.
Humm began his career as a 14-year-old apprentice at Baur au Lac in Zurich and he was trained by one of the country’s top chefs, Gérard Rabaey, at Pont de Brent.
He moved to the US in 2003. He earned his first Michelin star at age 24 as executive chef at Gasthaus zum Gupf, east of Stt Gallen in the Alpine village of Rehetobel.
He was named New York’s best chef by the James Beard Foundation in 2010 and the Eleven Madison Park, which he manages, was last year named the city’s top restaurant by the group.
Humm, well before winning the award, said that if he were ever honoured by an invitation to cook at Beard House, he would choose “Eleven Madison Park’s egg cream, Long Island clambake, and their take on New York cheesecake”, according to the foundation’s blog.
And invited he was!
ZURICH, SWITZERLAND – Environmental group WWF would like to see us stop wasting 75 percent of the electricity we use to hard-boil some 900 million eggs every year. The group doesn’t comment on our consumption of 100 hard-boiled eggs each, but it does says we could prepare them more efficiently.
The group asked Salt (Swiss Alpine Laboratories for Testing Energy Efficiency) to test and compare several methods. Their results (left to right in the graph):
1) egg cookers, which use little water and turn off once the eggs are cooked;
2) eggs cooked in two-fingers depth of water, lid on and heat turned off as soon as the eggs come to a boil; eggs are left for 20 minutes
3) same as number 2 but on a vitroceramic stove
4) vitroceramic stove using a lot of water and no lid
5) non-votroceramic, a lot of water, no lid
6) induction heat, a lot of water, no lid.
WWF says that unfortunately, most cookbooks still advice people to do it the old-fashioned and energy-inefficient way.
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND – I came home from a wine/food pairing tasting evening at the Chateau d’Ouchy that was exceptional in every respect, only to go to bed wondering if I should really have enjoyed the crisp, scrumptious pork skin as much as I did (photo to be added Sunday).
Yes! yes! yes! is the answer, according to Ron Silver, the owner of Bubby’s restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, or so reports National Public Radio in the US. NPR published an article that has to be read, if only for love of the title, “Who Killed Lard?” Silver put on a one-night-only “Lard Exoneration Dinner”, writes NPR, and his effort alone must just bring back the magic of great fat.
If you’re skeptical, read it as a financial history story, since it’s part of NPR’s money section.
I love to bake pies and on just a few occasions I have had lard on hand, and all those old cookbooks that swear by lard crusts are right. Great stuff, makes light crusts with just the right amount of crisp, that melt in your mouth.
Once on a cold winter’s night in the west of Ireland I was riding my bicycle down a lonely country road when the neighbours invited me in. They insisted I have dinner with them, knowing I was living alone in tight circumstances. To my chagrin they fried up two pork chops with terrific strips of fat, then stood and watched expectantly while I sat and ate. Their circumstances weren’t much better than mine and I knew their cow was illegally grazing on my landlady’s land and they were keen to butter me up, so to speak.
I grew up thinking you didn’t eat strips of fat even though I always tried to sneak some because I loved it, cooked tender and crispy. But the look on my hosts faces when it appeared I was going to leave the fat uneaten convinced me I’d better do something.
“Do you eat this bit?” I asked politely
“Isn’t that the bit you don’t want to miss!” said the missus.
They rubbed their hands with delight, having shared their best treat, as I diplomatically wolfed down the strip of fat.
I make no apologies and can only say that although I have a few kilos to lose and don’t get enough exercise I just had a heart checkup and was told I have the heart of an athlete.
Go figure. Must be something good in all that sinful fat over the years.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Forbes carries a wonderful article about food and expiry dates, where it goes, who buys it and whether or not they should all expect to die within hours (if you read no further, the answer is “no”).
The problem of old but still good food isn’t limited to the US, of course. Swiss supermarkets throw away massive amounts of food that have reached their expiry date, but Tables Suisses, run by volunteers and with 31 refrigerated vans, last year collected and distributed more than 3,000 tons of food from the stores.
The food gathered must be past its sell-by date but in good condition and perfectly edible. Swiss laws were aligned with European Union ones in 2009 for food safety, and while both federal and cantonal governments have roles to play in overseeing food safety, expiry dates are generally determined by the point at which a product is at its best, not whether or not it is still safe to eat.
Swiss consumers throw away 36 kilos of food per inhabitant each year, a total of 250,000 tons, of which 25,000 tons is considered by law to be fit for consumption.
The organization is a project of the non-profit (and tax exempt) Espoir pour personnes en détresse/Hoffnung für Menschen in Not foundation and it just celebrated its 10th anniversary in December 2011. Stores in 11 cantons participate.
The project distributes via a number of social work and charity groups, rather than directly to the needy. About 15 percent of the Swiss population is below the poverty line, some 1.1 million people, and half of these are considered in serious need of material aid; this is the group targeted by Tables Suisses.
Credit Suisse and Coop have been among the major sponsors since 2001, with the supermarket chain providing cash as well as food goods.
TSR ran a television report on Tables Suisses in 2009, and most of the information is still current, despite the show’s expiry date.