GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Here’s my version of our family recipe for the classic American 1950′s dish that we, as Catholics who didn’t eat meat on Friday, often had that night of the week. When you watch Mad Men, remember that in Iowa we were sitting around the table eating this. We bought our first TV in 1956 and those ads created on Madison Avenue hadn’t yet started to reach us.
The main recipe change is that I use better noodles than the ones my mother, in Iowa, had access to. And since I live in Switzerland I’ve added Gruyere cheese, but any hard cheese will do.
First, a word on peas and freezers.
A word on peas
Florence Lonergan Wallace, my mother, liked canned peas, which I never have. We had fresh peas on occasion, when we would visit my grandmother in Reinbeck, Iowa, but I was never fond of them because we had to sit on her back steps and shell them first.
I’ve just been reading the history of frozen food and discovered that Clarence Birdseye brought the first quick frozen products to the US market in 1930.
My mother bought food once a week when I was a child, and our refrigerator had a freezer compartment just large enough to hold ice cubes, so while frozen foods were available, we didn’t buy them for storage until the 1960s. I immediately became a fan of frozen peas, a lifetime food love affair, as long as they are really good quality (the smaller the better).
When I moved to Ireland in 1981 for a few months I was astonished to discover dried peas and to learn that for many Irish and British families, this was a staple vegetable. I’ve never learned to appreciate them, except in soup.
Here is what we ate two nights ago at my house, in celebration of the centenary of my mother’s birthday, 26 January. It’s a one-dish meal, not costly, can be increased or decreased for the size of the crowd, and if it’s made well, with good ingredients, you can’t go wrong, especially with kids. A key to success it to make sure it doesn’t dry out; I know too many Americans who has memories of flannel-flavoured tuna noodle casseroles!
Florence’s tuna noodle casserole, circa 1950
Preheat oven to 190C / 350F
Ingredients, sauce: milk, butter, flour
canned tuna, “natural” (packed in water, not oil), 200g
noodles / tagliatelle, 500g
green olives with pimiento stuffing, 10-20, quartered
medium green pickles, gurkens and not cornichons, 2 diced
pepper, green and/or red, 1/2, diced
onion, 1 medium, diced
celery, 2 stalks (peel, if slightly bitter European celery), diced
cheese, 100g of Gruyere (I used the sharper salé), grated using large holes
frozen peas, small, 250g
Seasoning: salt and pepper, paprika, mustard (optional)
1. Chop as indicated the main ingredients, except for the noodles (tagliatelle), crumbling the tuna, and mix in a large casserole baking dish. Salt and pepper very lightly.
2. Cook the noodles (tagliatelle) according to instructions, usually about 8 minutes, run cold water over them to stop the cooking and drain. Set aside.
3. While the noodles cook, make a white sauce:
- melt over very low heat 2 T (tablespoon) of butter, then take it off the heat and add 2 T of white flour, stir to blend
- add in, all at once, 1 cup of milk, return to medium-low heat
- stir very frequently (to avoid lumps forming) until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, noting that towards the end it can thicken very quickly and stick to the bottom of the pan.
3. As soon as the sauce is ready, add the drained and slightly cooled noodles to the other main ingredients, toss gently to mix, then pour the sauce over, making sure the ingredients are covered evenly with sauce. Use a knife tip to add a touch of mustard here and there. Sprinkle with paprika.
4. Bake uncovered just long enough to blend flavours and heat through, 20-25 minutes uncovered, checking to make sure the noodles don’t dry out. If it looks too dry, place a piece of foil loosely over the top.
Tip: if it doesn’t look like it’s moist enough before baking, add a few drops of milk. Better: if you think you don’t have enough sauce you can increase it (but it will be a bit thinner) by taking some of the finished sauce, adding it to 1/2 cup milk off the heat, blending well, then adding this back into the prepared sauce, over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for another 2-3 minutes.
Cupcakes in the City opened in Geneva today
For those of you who just reminisce about cupcakes, or for those of you who continually have your eye out for the perfect cupcake after watching still another episode of Sex in the City, a new store, Cupcakes in the City, dedicated exclusively to the beloved American cupcake, opened today in the Eaux-Vives neighborhood in Geneva.
A wide range of both savory and sweet cupcakes is available, as well as the equipment necessary to make cupcakes at home.
The flavors have a sophisticated, European twist that your average birthday party or school fête cupcake doesn’t have, such as honey and Speculoos (ginger cookies), lime and ricotta, Carambar caramel, etc. They plan to expand the range over time, and ice cream cupcakes will be available during the summer months.
They come in mini and standard sizes, going respectively for CHF 3.20 and 5.50. You can special-order XXL ones, birthday cakes, and customized party and reception cakes.
The three partners are already planning to open other shops in Switzerland and abroad.
Cupcakes in the City
12 Rue Henri-Blanvalet
Tel./ Fax +41 22 700 28 43
Open Mon.-Fri. 10:30 to 18:30, Thursday late closing 21:00.
Kids in the kitchen: making homemade Halloween treats with your children
Have you ever thought of making homemade Halloween treats, and getting your kids into the kitchen to help out?
Sharon Bowers’ book Ghoulish Goodies: Creature Feature Cupcakes, Monster Eyeballs, Bat Wings, Funny Bones, Witches’ Knuckles, and Much More! (Frightful Cookbook) arose out of her lifelong love affair with Halloween. Epicurious has featured some of her recipes and ideas in its weekly newsletter.
Bowers says, “Spiderweb Cookies or big bowls of Sticks and Stones Caramel Corn are perfect contributions to school Halloween events, tailgating parties, neighborhood open houses, adult costume parties, and even afternoon play dates.” She even suggests using them for theme parties at other times of the year.
Her recipe for Monster Eyeballs are made with peanut butter, M&Ms and chocolate chips. What more could a child ask for, and in addition, they are pretty darned scary to look at. Her Glowing Jack-o’-Lantern Cookies may not be a healthy treat, but they really do look like Jack-o’-lanterns, and become not just a cooking expedition, but also an art project that is edible.
Where did the tradition of Halloween come from?
Halloween is, of course, an American holiday, which has become very popular in Europe in recent years.
The Irish actually transported this holiday from Ireland during the Great Famine. The Jack-o’-lantern symbol actually comes from an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain, which was a celebration of the autumn harvest in Gaelic culture. Ancient Celts thought that 31 October was the “boundary between the world and the otherworld dissolved,” according to the Wikipedia, and that it was a time when the dead threatened the living. They often wore masks and costumes that evoked the image of the evil spirits, in hopes of placating them.
The actual name is a shortened version of All Hallows’ Eve, which corresponds to the Christian All Saints’ Day. Ancient Celts placed a skeleton in their window to represent the departed.
Nosajanimus says that the name “Jack” comes from an ancient Irish myth in which there existed a mean old drunkard by the name of Jack who wandered the streets playing tricks on people, and was even capable of playing tricks on the devil. He tricked the devil into promising that he would never be allowed to pass through the doors of Hell, and when he died, he couldn’t get into either Heaven or Hell, and was left to keep wandering for eternity. All the devil gave him was an ember from hell. Jack hollowed out a turnip to hold the ember and held it like a lantern. The tradition of hollowing out a pumpkin was probably an American derivation of the turnip.
Barbie’s secret to weight loss was “don’t eat”: Is that your teen’s philosophy?
The 1965 Slumber Party Barbie came with her very own “How to Lose Weight” book. The main message was “don’t eat.” Along with this book came a bathroom scale always set at 110 pounds/49.9 kilograms, says Teen Beauty Tips. According to Malisa Morsman, “Barbie is the plastic equivalent of a 5-foot, 9-inch (1.75 m) woman with a 36-inch (91.5 cm) bust, 33-inch (83.8 cm) hips, and an impossibly small 18-inch waist (45.7 cm).”
Ken, on the other hand, came with his own milk and cookies, and no scales.
Unhealthy message to teenage girls that has persisted
Unfortunately, women of all ages gradually started to perceive Barbie’s body as ideal, and teenagers often follow, even now, Barbie’s 1965 instructions on how to lose weight. Some purport that Barbie is even responsible for the increase in eating disorders.
In Europe, a correlation has also been made between women of all ages who smoke and have eating disorders. Smoking cuts the appetite, and is used as a way to keep from eating.
Ironically, the problem often becomes not only of a problem of getting your teenage girl to eat properly, but also a problem of eating at all.
As for the boys, is the message still that he can eat milk and cookies to his heart’s delight?
Chef Geoffroy Pautz is giving summer cooking classes near Lausanne
Hostellerie Les Chevreuils
80 route du Jorat
1000 Lausanne 28
Tel. +41 21 785 01 01
Hostellerie Les Chevreuils is offering summer cooking classes for children. Classes will continue on Wednesdays through October.
These courses were such a great hit in last summer that head chef Geoffroy Pautz has decided to do it again. Classes are geared for children 10 to 15 years of age, and take place in the restaurant kitchens.
After the classes, at the end of the afternoon, parents and relatives are invited to come taste the dishes the children have prepared.
Classes cost CHF50 per child. This price includes the choice of one cookbook. There is a maximum of 12 children per class.
Classes are held on Wednesday, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., on the following dates:
8 July 2009
19 August 2009
23 September 2009
14 and 21 October 2009
To make reservations
Reservations can be made by telephone, using your credit card. Your card will not be debited; it is only used to confirm your reservation. Payment is made in cash, at the reception desk when you come in.
Click here to see how to get there.
Summertime is the perfect time to start!
Going to the farmers market can be made into an exciting, weekly event. Summer offers lots of fresh fruit that they can choose to make their smoothies, to put on their breakfast cereal, or to make fruit salads. Vegetables are tastier in summer than in winter, and there is a larger selection, so it is also an occasion to encourage them to try more vegetables. If they choose fruit and vegetables themselves, they will feel more part of the process, and are more likely to eat them.
Making the shopping list
Start by discussing the fruits and vegetables that are in season with your child before you go to the market. For the Lake Geneva region, you can look at our MarketDay photo albums, published regularly, to get an idea of what you can expect to find. If you are planning on making a meal together, choose the dishes and ingredients together when making your shopping list. If it’s fruit for snacks or smoothies, let them decide which ones they prefer.
It is a good idea to put up a food pyramid and a seasonal products chart somewhere in the kitchen, so you can refer to it when planning meals with the children, and also to explain why they must eat food such as green vegetables or fruit, for example. More suggestions are available in our 9 May 2009 post A fun, interactive guide for teaching your children good eating habits.
At the market
Once you’re at the market, let them start looking for the items on the list. When they’ve spotted them, explain how to choose, by color, smell, touch, ripeness, etc., but make sure to ask the vendor if it’s all right to touch first.
This is also a time to let them look for products that have a local origin written on the tags, and to explain that if the products are local, they are also more ecological, because the cost of transport is less, and that in turn makes them more economical. It takes a lot of fuel to bring tomatoes from Holland in July and August when we have them right here in the region. Reduced transport also cuts pollution.
Buying from local producers allows children to have direct contact with the farmers, and to ask questions if they like. Farmers love to talk about what they have lovingly produced, and this in turn encourages children to appreciate farmers’ hard work and the satisfaction that it brings them. There is a reciprocity: the farmer gives you something he or she has produced with care, and you in turn get to satisfy your tastebuds.
Step 1: Getting your children interested in food
For younger children, one of the easiest ways of introducing them to the kitchen is to tempt them with a sweet, fruit smoothie.
So as to avoid adding sugar, it’s best to choose a fruit that is very ripe and sweet, and, of course, one that your child likes. Letting your child choose the fruit is also a way of teaching him or her how to shop for fresh fruit, and explain why you don’t buy strawberries from Chile at Christmas. Local fruit is not only fresher and therefore has more vitamins, but it is also nicer on the purse.
Bananas are good all year, and can be mixed with different fruits in the summer. There are endless combinations that change with the seasons.
At the moment, strawberries, melons, peaches, and raspberries are already available in the Geneva region or from nearby France or Italy. Indian mangoes make a divine smoothie, similar to an Indian lassi, and always a favorite for children. The buttery, honey-flavored yellow kiwis from New Zealand have a very short season, but are not as acidic as the green ones, and have just come on the market.
You can always follow my MarketDay blog post on Thursdays to get an idea of what’s available in the region before you do your shopping.
Buy your favorite plain yogurt. Pour the quantity required into the blender or food processor. Cut fruit into chunks. Add to blender. Churn it all up, then taste. If it’s too thick, just add fresh milk (UHT milk gives a strange, not-so-fresh flavor).
For younger children, it is easy to cut bananas up into chunks. Raspberries don’t need to be cut. This is a good time to teach them the easy way to eat a kiwi. Cut it in half for them, then let them scoop out the pulp with a spoon.
They may need a little help with mangoes, melons and peaches, but that too is a way of demonstrating how to prepare them so they can do it on their own when they get a little older.
Let your child taste to see whether they want more strawberries, more banana, or whatever. This is a way of teaching children to be discriminating in their tastes.
Smoothies are about a healthy a snack as you can get. They are the perfect way to introduce your children to the kitchen, without overwhelming them.
Smoothies are full of protein, calcium, vitamin C, and fiber, as well as other healthy things, depending on what fruits you use. Take advantage of this moment to teach your kids about the connection between fresh good-tasting food and nutrition.
Teaching your kids good eating habits, now and not later
Alarming increase in rate of obesity in European children
As covered in our article “Obesity education leads to fewer French, Swiss obese children” of May 2008, obesity has taken on epidemic proportions in European children. According to IOTF (International Obesity TaskForce) figures, Europeans are starting to wake up to the seriousness of this with regard to health. One in five European children now fall into the obese range, with an annual increase of two percent, according to another IOTF report.
Some European countries now have an even higher rate of obesity than Americans, going as high as 30% in some countries.
Two-thirds of these children will remain obese for their entire lives, and their life expectancy is reduced by several years, since obesity leads to a long list of other serious illnesses, including early-onset heart disease, respiratory disorders and musculoskeletal diseases, according to Swiss government statistics that came out in January 2008.
The good news for Switzerland
The 2002 statistics had revealed that one out of five children in Switzerland were obese. The good news arising out of the 2008 report is that in Switzerland and France, obesity rates in children are dropping, and are now one in six, most probably thanks to active campaigns on the part of the government to educate children about how to eat. The European Congress on Obesity, held in Geneva in May 2008, made these figures public.
Diet and sedentary lifestyle main causes of increasing obesity
This rise can be attributed to numerous changes in lifestyle, but mainly to diet and sedentary lifestyle.
As children have taken on eating habits similar to those of Americans, the rate of obesity has risen. One of the sounding alarms for this health crisis is the rise in type 2 diabetes in obese children.
Children don’t walk to school anymore; they are often driven, even when they live two blocks away. Television, iPods, computer games, chatting, MySpace, and other such couch potato and deskbound activities aggravate the problem even further.
How to teach your children good eating habits
The time is now, today, and not tomorrow: start by researching the sites listed below to get informed, and then to find fun, interactive ways of teaching your children the importance of diet (and health).
The Food Pyramid
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed the Food Pyramid was developed in the 1960s as a response to the alarmingly high rises in heart disease in the U.S., along with a pamphlet called Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is updated every five years. In the 1980s, they started publishing Pattern for Daily Food Choices, but unfortunately Americans didn’t take much note, so finally in 1992, they decided to produce it in graphic form, in what they call Food Guide Pyramid.
As European childrens’ eating habits increasingly resemble those of American children, obesity has continued to rise. The USDA developed an array of pamphlets, pyramid planning programs, sites and wide-reaching educational methods and media for teaching Americans how to eat, including the MyPyramid site. These materials and methods can easily be adapted to a European setting.
Teaching children how to eat healthily
MyPyramid for Kids gives parents resources and ideas for teaching their children good eating habits. Some of these include simple common-sense suggestions, like getting children involved in cooking (they are more likely to eat their broccoli if they helped prepare it) or setting the table; praising their efforts and making them feel an important part of the process; interactive computer games such as My Pyramid Blastoff; coloring pages, and other educational materials, adapted to different age groups.
As we continue to build this blog, Kids in the Kitchen will include recipes to help you get your children involved in the kitchen. I’d be willing to bet that they’ll eat the guacamole they helped make, even if it’s not really as good as their Mom’s. And above all, Kids in the Kitchen will guide you in your own anti-obesity campaign, so that your children look forward to a longer and healthier life.