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.
BERN, SWITZERLAND – The Swiss Statistical Office 15 November spilled the beans about how the Swiss spend their food money. Given the relatively high cost of meat in the country, it’s a wonder that the highest expenditure, for meat, is not more than CHF149 a month on average, per household. The second biggest outlay goes for bread and cereal, CHF101 a month, followed closely by milk and cheese, CHF100 a month.
Vegetables are in fourth place, with CHF75. Spending on fruit: CHF56.
The famous 12 kg per person of Swiss chocolate consumed is part of the CHF41 spent monthly on jam, honey and sweets. If you’re trying to work out how much the Swiss therefore spend on chocolate, remember that the consumption figures include tourists.
The food expenditure figures are part of a report on 2009 household spending in Switzerland published 15 November.
Household food and drink spending also goes for (average per month, per household):
- coffee, tea, cocoa – CHF24
- mineral water, juice, sweet drinks – CHF36
- alcoholic beverages – CHF68, of which wine is CHF52
- dining out – CHF462, of which CHF222 is meals in restaurants, cafes and bars, CHF66 is alcoholic beverages and CHF62 is non-alcoholic drinks. The rest is snacks and drinks in small food outlets.
BERN, SWITZERLAND – Galmac apples, which kick off the Swiss apple season, have been around since 1986 but the unusual Swiss summer weather of 2011 is causing them to ripen a full two weeks earlier than usual, just in time for the 1 August national holiday.
The apples, native to Switzerland, are a cross between Jerseymac and Gala and were developed by the Agroscope Changins-Wädenswil ACW federal research station to meet Swiss growing conditions and market needs.
This is the first year they are widely available throughout Switzerland in time for the national holiday.
The apples are sweet but crisp and juicy and 200 tons of them are hitting the market this week. Some, for consumers lucky enough to find them, have a white cross on them.
The trees are increasingly replacing Summerreds, with 35 hectares planted nationally by 2015, says the federal agriculture department. The apples were designed to provide an early apple that is not as acidic as most on the market, in order to give Swiss consumers a local product. Most apples are on the market in August are imported.
NYON, SWITZERLAND – Nyon has just become endowed with a three-in-one lakeside food spot that promises to be an excellent addition to the growing town’s quality food options. One of my favourite restaurants from the outside (I never ate there, oddly enough) has long been the bright orange and blue Cafe Latino at the east end of the city centre, near the dock.
Owners Santiago Wegmann and Benoit Rol have renovated the building, and it’s now home to three eateries run by the company O’Les Terrasses du Lac.
The pair two years ago renovated and recaptured Lausanne’s love affair with the old Pizza Mario on the rue du Bourg in Lausanne.
The top floor is now Le Deck, a 90m2 lounge bar with a wonderful view of the lake, available for private and corporate parties but otherwise open to the public.
The ground floor houses begood, the third restaurant in a chain whose first one opened near Paris. Its second restaurant is the Outlet in Aubonne, in canton Vaud. Begood, with 70 seats, has four families of menus that are centred around affordable, tasty and healthy eating: befit, for longterm weight loss, becoeurful for low-cholesterol eating, bezen for easy digestion, and betonic for a vitamin boost.
The main restaurant, on the first floor, just above the lake, is O’Restaurant, which specializes in fish, especially freshly caught Lake Geneva fish, although meat-lovers will find they can also order lamb fillet, grilled steak or a tartare de bœuf.
The restaurant complex gives back to Nyon one of its historic treasures. The building dates back to 1820. It was home to the Hotel Odelet in the 19th century, famous for its “feet in the water” terrace directly on the waterfront and shaded by two giant chestnut trees. The idyllic situation changed in 1904 when a second phase in the construction of the city’s quais cut the hotel off from its waterfront.
New owner Santiago Wegmann has recreated the building’s old love affair with the water by making a terrace on each level the focal point. Thirty-two of the 80 seats in the main restaurant are on the terrace, for example.
Open daily from 08:00-01:00, 7/7. Reservations: +41 22 994 4000.
The just-announced academic Chair of Poultry Welfare, at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, is the country’s first such chair, reports The Globe & Mail, saying that consumer concern over healthy poultry is behind the new research post. Canada’s poultry farmers are sponsoring the seven-year post, at a cost of C$100,000 a year. The university houses the largest number of animal research scientists in Canada, says the newspaper, which suggests the new chair will give the industry a public relations boost.
The chair “is one of three positions the Egg Farmers plan to fund as part of a long-term plan to take what spokesman Peter Clarke called a ‘proactive’ approach to preparing for the future. Mr Clarke said the investment has nothing to do with pressure from retailers or activists.”
The job is going to Tina Widowski, who heads the Campbell Research centre at Guelph, which studies animal housing, one of only two in the world, according to BetterFarming.
Switzerland’s laws covering poultry farming are relatively strict, but the 6.8 million birds cover only about half of what the Swiss population of 7.6 million consumes.
Nearly 20 years ago I went to a lecture on healthy diets that was mostly interesting and good, but when the speaker suddenly got passionate about the dangers of licking your yogurt lids (“and you’d be surprised at how many people do it!” she said), several of us thought she was going too far with the health approach.
Now it seems she might have been on to something. Toronto researchers say the wrappers are designed to keep fast food grease away from our clothes and hands is contaminating the food, and traces have been found in human blood, reports Environment News Service.
“In this study we clearly demonstrate that the current use of PAPs in food contact applications does result in human exposure to PFCAs, including PFOA,” Scott Mabury, the lead researcher and a professor at the University of Toronto, is quoted as saying, and the US Agency for Toxic Substances reports that high levels of PFOA in blood have been associated with changes in sex hormones and cholesterol.
Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, and just hand me the greasy thing, please, no wrapper included!
Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – Of course they are! And Switzerland’s biggest supermarket chain is ready to put cash on the table if you’ve got the most popular suggestion for a better product. You can create a completely new one or modify an existing product, on Migros’s migipedia web page for consumer input. The beta site was created in June 2010 and allows the stores clients to comment on some 5,000 Migros products.
If you don’t have decent French, German or Italian ask a neighbour to help you write up your suggestions because the money goes to the suggestion with the biggest number of votes, so yours needs to be coherent. The big prize is CHF10,000, with the winner selected by Migros, but the 10 most popular ideas are worth CHF1,000 to their authors.
The ones already posted are a curious mix, from packaged dried winter flowers for our salads and pumpkin jam in the food line to improved sports shoes and mini-Budget cars. I could do without the peppermint ice cream and vanilla coke, as well as the sauerkraut ice cream and ice tea energy drink. I have my doubts about the viability of the alcohol-free beer yogurt and washing my hair with wasabi shampoo is a scary idea, definitely one where you want to keep the suds out of your eyes.
But a tomato-flavoured Farmer bar might be worth trying at least once and black olives in quark has potential. Maybe. Porridge with apple and cinnamon is one of those things you get too often in bargain US hotels and the cheap cinnamon flavour stays with you for weeks, so I vote that one down.
Then there is the 40% hazelnut chocolate bar, not bad, not bad.
But so far, we can do better. I don’t know about you but I’m racking my brain for all those products I’ve been complaining about over the years, to remember how I thought they should improve them.
To participate with suggestions and to vote you need to register on the site. Deadline for votes and entries: 18 November 2010
Milan, Italy (GenevaLunch) – Harenna Forest wild coffee from Ethiopia is just one of the treasures being presented as part of a feast of fine old foods in Milan this weekend. Ethiopia is the home to the coffee bean. It is also the only country in the world where wild coffee still grows, according to Slow Food International. The Milan show is a key event for the Slow Food movement. It opened Thursday 21 October and runs until Sunday night: a combined Terra Madre meeting and Salone del Gusto, with Slow Food International’s President Carlo Petrini saying it represents “the most important meeting of the Slow world”. The food salon takes place every two years.
This is far more than a meeting of foodlovers, although they are certainly present. The Slow Food Foundation is playing a growing role in protecting food biodiversity. The group sounds the alarm for disappearing varieties, noting, for example, that 300,000 vegetable varieties have disappeared in the last 100 years and that nearly 30 percent of native cattle, sheep and pigs have disappeared.
These are not idle words: the group is actively involved in securing the future of disappearing foods.
The Milan feast includes Molo dried nettles from Kenya, rare Zulu sheep from South Africa, Lifou Island taro and yam, traditionally matured Emmentaler from the Emme Valley in Switzerland, and low temperature dried native varieties of green beans from Switzerland. The list of 29 products reads like an exotic diet, but these were, just a few years ago, common regional products.
Slow Food presents 20 new presidia this weekend, working to save disappearing foods
The products are presented by the 29 new “presidia” of the Slow Food movement. Each of the nearly 150 international presidia was established to protect the infrastructure needed to sustain foods that risk extinction. There are also hundreds of national presidia, with Italy alone having 200. “The Presidia sustain quality production at risk of extinction, protect unique regions and ecosystems, recover traditional processing methods, safeguard native breeds and local plant varieties,” says the Slow Food Foundation. “The Presidia directly involve producers, offer technical assistance to improve production quality, organize exchanges among different countries, provide new market outlets (both locally and internationally).”
The theme at the Milan show this year is biodiversity, in line with the United Nations year of biodiversity, and how food communities, particularly indigenous groups, are working to ensure that governments understand the need for agricultural diversity. Petrini expects to see the meeting close with the draft of a paper which shows “how much food must return to the center of our lives in order to imagine a better future”.
Terre Madre is a relatively young movement. The Milan show is “the beginning of the fourth biannual gathering of food communities cooks, academics, youth and musicians, united in a desire to promote sustainable local food production in harmony with the environment while respecting knowledge handed down over the generations,” according to press material issued by the group.
Links to other sites: Zurich recently opened a permanent indoor food market that features some of Switzerland’s Slow Food presidia products. Blogger Laura Schlalchli wrote about her visit there.
Slow Food presidia, worldwide list of foods