Wednesday, 2 January 2008

The Swiss are worried

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Well, the title is a bit dramatic, but if the worse comes to worse, then Switzerland will be confronted with one of its biggest problems. Even the gnomes in the Swiss Banks cannot help this time. Whilst the Swiss chocolate is being churned out, and the Emmentaler and Gruyère cheese is being sold over the world, an Swiss institution to every day life is being threatened.

It is called the "cervelat" which I will not and cannot interpret. It is a Swiss sausage. Not just a sausage, but it can been eaten raw, fried (the ends should be cut crosswise), made into a salad (mixed with tomato, cucumber, or whatever) and if you are clever you can slice it in a way that it resembles a slice of meat, to be fried. What could be more versatile. I remember my early days of family life, when Swiss mother-in-law showed me tips and tricks of the Swiss cuisine. The cervelat was ever present. If you couldn't get to the shops for some reason or other and had a pair cervelat in the fridge, then the days food was saved. Skin them and fry them. You can even cut them into slices, or just prod them with a fork. Five minutes on each side in the frying pan with some fat and they were ready. Served together with what you like - pasta, potato, rice - you name it, the cervelat fits.

If Swiss family go for a hike in the mountains, you take a rücksack with you. What fits better in the rücksack than a few pair of cervelat. If you are feeling adventurous, and find a clearing in a forest, you collect some twigs. A fire is lit and the cervelat is threaded onto a twig laying around. Again 5-10 minutes held over the open flame and you already have your Swiss home-made b-b-q. This is no joke, when the kids were small we often went on a day's walk and stopped somewhere for our "lunch". If you don't feel like setting part of the woods on fire, you can eat them as they come. Just peel them and together with bread they supply a full meal out in the open.

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Every country has something that you miss when you go on holiday or have to live abroad. I remember on my first trips home to London from Switzerland I always filled up my luggage with english biscuits, Cadbury Milk Flakes (still my favourite today although I have to leave the sweet stuff out), some irish pork sausages. Americans may take their favourite peanut butter on holiday with them - these days they can get hamburger everywhere, or perhaps their favourite pop tart. What did my son do when he landed at Geneva Airport before boarding the train home a week ago, he bought a cervelat at the airport to help him on the way. Aromat used to be the thing for every Swiss to take with him, but even that can now be bought worldwide.

So why are the Swiss trembling and worried about their cervelat. Actually Mr. Swiss told me about it (who else?). Apparently the skins for the Swiss Cervelat are not Swiss but are imported from Brasil. Apparently the Brasilian gut is suitable because of its thickness (32-34 mm). Other countries cannot supply this size. For example Argentinia gut contains too much fat, and would be too thick. This would mean that the cervelat would increase somewhat in weight and the packing material would have to be enlarged. Using artificial gut is also not a solution. Although it is used on most sausages these days, it would increase the price of the cervelat considerably. I forgot to mention that for one Swiss franc twenty cents it is a very reasonable sausage. It seems that the EU have forbidden the import of beef gut from Brasil into Switzerland because of the dangers of BSE. The threat is real and many Swiss now have sleepless nights wondering how the situation will develop.

I don't mind a cervelat, but it is not exactly my favourite sausage. It just doesn't go with the HP Sauce that I always have to buy to bring back from England on my annual trip.

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