My first real meal in Geneva – the welcome dinner a week into the program – was the best meal I had in Switzerland. The student life directors picked Cafe Papon to serve as our first glimpse into Swiss food culture, and that it did. For example, I couldn’t remember the last time I took 3 hours to eat a meal, which is something the Swiss (and French) do regularly. Eating is not just something you do to stay alive; it’s an experience that is best enjoyed slowly and in the company of others.
In a series of unfortunate events, my camera battery died right before our food came and I forgot to bring a backup battery (never. again.). Blurry iPhone photos are better than no photos though, right?
After dessert, the waiters came around with espresso and chocolate. I was full by the end of the meal, but not in the I’m-never-going-to-eat-again kind of feeling you get from American restaurant portions. Even after a 3-course meal.
Being of legal drinking age at 20 in Europe was definitely an interesting experience. Every year, vineyards in the Valais region participate in the Caves Ouvertes, or “Day of Open Wineries”. You buy a wine glass for 5 swiss francs, and ride shuttles to the different wineries to sample their wines. The vineyards were breathtakingly beautiful! I started with the good stuff, so I guess I’m now completely spoiled for wine.
We had our official fondue meal in the tiny car-less town of Gruyere, where gruyere cheese is made. The warm melted cheese from the fondue and raclette was a welcome respite from the sudden rainstorm we got caught in while exploring the medieval castle! In addition to the fondue, we got a raclette, which is that metal stand in the very back of this picture with the block of cheese on it. The heat source at the bottom melts the block of cheese, which you scrape off in layers to enjoy with bread, potatoes, vegetables, etc.
Geneva is one of the most expensive cities to live in the world, so we did our best with very limited French food-label proficiency to cook more often than we ate out. One of my go-to dishes was lemon-baked salmon with green beans. This could pass as healthy if you ignore the Laduree macarons and cider in the background…
I may or may not have checked the oven a million times while this was cooking because the salmon had to be cooked through, but I didn’t want to overcook the beans. A highly scientific process, if you ask me… #masterchef
P.S. Pro tip for anyone traveling to Switzerland (or Europe in general) – Ziploc bags are surprisingly hard to find, if not non-existent in environmentally-conscious Switzerland! We couldn’t keep leftovers and had to buy snacks instead of packing them on hiking trips or weekend travels. This adds up quickly, so snag a few extra from the airport where they make you put your liquids in a ziploc 🙂