Welcome back to Glendon, everyone!
It is with some irony that I say this seeing as I am not returning to Glendon along with you this year. Instead, I am lucky enough to be on exchange in the beautiful city of Lausanne, Switzerland. Yes, that means I’ll be spending the year in the land of expensive watches and fantastic skiing, and more importantly, delectable cheeses and decadent chocolates. Although this year’s articles will be different in format from last year’s (think: less recipes, more food journalism), I encourage you to take the experiences I will document to heart and continue to develop your culinary insights.
The first two weeks here have been no less than fabulous, if not surreal at times. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt like I’m in a movie simply while walking down the street. Of course, the thing that has caught my attention the most has been the culture around food.
I was at a birthday party with a friend last weekend which took place at a quaint little villa overlooking the French Alps — which are directly across from Lausanne, on the other side of Lac Léman. What’s more, when we walked through the front door, we were greeted with the scent of homemade apple tarts baking in the oven. You can imagine my pleasant surprise, being used to the typical North American parties where the most you’ll get is the sound of chip bags opening and the caps of beer bottles being popped off. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of beer and chips to go around here too, but what struck me was how normal it seemed to everyone to have real food on the tables as well. The guests also brought their own offerings — including homemade brownies and lemon cake made from scratch, as well as what I’ll call caprese skewers which were made up of halved cherry tomatoes, bocconcini pearls, and a balsamic glaze.
Apparently being the only one astounded by all of this, it occurred to me that food is much more than a basic need in Europe, but something to be celebrated. Following this initial realisation, I continued to notice this trend. Fast food is incredibly unpopular here and almost everyone takes a two-hour lunch break - at which point all work comes to a halt, stores close, and everyone either goes home or goes out to eat a proper meal with friends, family, or colleagues. In Switzerland, eating isn’t merely a chore or a box to check off on your daily to-do list; instead, it is much more akin to a ritual, and one which is central to people’s lives for a multitude of reasons, extending beyond basic sustenance. It’s about slowing down and taking a break; it’s about savouring life just a little bit more each and every day; and it’s something this Canadian could definitely get used to.
Until next time, Glendon. Bon appetit!
Pro Tip: For all of John’s previous recipes, follow him on Facebook at John Kemp’s Kitchen or on Instagram @johnkempskitchen!