Binge watching VEEP (a show, I discovered only yesterday, so far, I’ve made it to season 2/episode 4, laughing out loud every five minutes) has made me not leave my couch for quite some time now, except for short runs to the fridge in order to get some fresh supply of strawberry cheesecake icecream (not from that really famous brand, but from the other really famous brand, you see, their cheesecake layers are a bit saltier, which is a nice contrast to the sweetness of the strawberries, but I digress), a dessert, or basic nutrition, which I have grown addicted to as swiftly as to Selina Meyer and her wonderfully obnoxious crew. I wonder what I will do after the end of the last season… not much, I guess; probably, I won’t be able to move at all by then…
The best thing about Switzerland is the food. And the best thing about the food is a Luxemburgerli from Sprüngli’s. You might think it’s a macaron but it’s not, believe you me. I’ve had macarons, plenty, even those hysterically cherished ones from Ladurée, and I had them from Ladurée in Paris, on rue Bonaparte, so don’t tell me the taste was probably just affected by transportation, say a long-distance flight to Sydney, Cape Cod or Kyoto or where ever you picture me misjudging Ladurée’s famous delights, no, even those iconic French macarons are nothing in comparison. Nothing compares to a Luxemburgerli. Nothing. Actually, it makes macarons obsolete. Sad excuses for a sweet. You better take the next flight to Zurich and make it to Paradeplatz as quickly as you possibly can. If only I could do the same, but I promised to show up at my parents’ place this Easter weekend…
Since the beginning of time, we’ve met with many a famous couple: Adam and Eve, Caesar and Cleopatra, Romeo and Juliet, Harry and Sally, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Yves Saint Laurent and Victoire Doutreleau, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, James Bond and an endless row of girls, Miss Marple and Mr Stringer, Tintin and Captain Haddock, but the most successful couple to me is a strawberry and the cheesecake she’s just been introduced to. Admittedly, their love affair won’t last long, a fork will be their hangman, my stomach their grave, but neither did Romeo and Juliet’s, and so I will continue to help any strawberry meet the love of her life, my cheesecake. Short live the happy couple!
Austria is very blessed a country. They not only have Sissi, that wonderful iconic empress played so heartbreakingly sweet by Romy Schneider, more importantly, they are lucky to have the very best pastries in the world. You all know the Sachertorte from Sacher’s in Vienna, probably the most famous chocolate cake in the world, although it’s not the vast amounts of chocolate that are to blame for its fame, but the fine layer of apricot marmalade, then there’s Demel on Kohlmarkt near Hofburg Palace, purveyor to the Imperial and Royal Court of Austria, the best pastry shop in the world (at least, as far as I’m concerned) with an absurdly delicious range of tarts and cakes (and a very yummy Beef Wellington, too) that make you forget all about the importance of beach bodies in general and very much of your own in particular, and finally there’s Kaiserschmarrn, a kind of elaborate pancake with lots of rum raisins—and some apricot marmalade to dip your pieces into for a slightly sour yet very fruity contrast. That one, at least, you can do all by yourself (don’t forget some grated lemon peel, it’s quite crucial), for anything from Sacher or Demel’s you need years and years of training… Years!
Some time ago, I had the worst of nightmares. I was in a tram in Zurich, trying to make it to Sprüngli’s to get some Himbeer-Rahm-Torte, their famous raspberry cream cake, my very favourite, it’s so very rich and heavy with raspberries, yet light and fresh like air, but that damn streetcar wouldn’t take me there, for some reason, it was taking the wrong turn, totally wrong direction, I wanted to get out, but it just wouldn’t stop, it just went on and on, still, I had to get out to make it in time before closing hour, missing it was not an option, I had to have that cake, I just had to, I don’t know how I finally managed to take another tram, I think I ran them all down somehow, but the other one wasn’t the right one either, I started panicking, I was way too late now, all of a sudden night had fallen, it was completely dark outside, the time was 6:25 pm – hadn’t I left at noon? – and that streetcar had just passed the Zurich opera house to make it home to Seefeld, like it was mocking me, I just had to get out, but even if I managed to, how should I ever make it to Sprüngli’s in time, with five minutes left at my hand? Any suggestions? Any? Well, neither had I, instead, I woke up screaming. Still without any cake, but at least safe and sound. I made it to the fridge and had noisette yoghurt. No raspberries, but quite yummy.
My grandmother used to travel and bake a lot after retiring, she had all this time on her hands and filled it with some culinary creativity, and as she was fond of red wine and Spain, she ended up baking but one cake only, her masterpiece, her Rioja cake, commonly and less specifically known as her red wine cake, as in the 1970s, Rioja was quite uncommon a beverage in Germany and she didn’t feel the urge to explain her extravagances to just anybody she had over for tea and sympathy, she was a teacher, the most loved one of her village, her funeral was crowded with former students, she must have been a hell of a teacher, anyway, I, being more into France than into Spain, have always replaced Rioja with some Bordeaux when I made that cake, but now, just to cherish her memory, I opened a bottle of Rioja, the batter takes a quarter of a litre, as well as vast amounts of cocoa, chopped dark chocolate, this one is from Venezuela, quite fitting an origin, it’s a Spanish speaking country after all, anyway, the cake‘s obviously soaked with flavonoids from all that red wine and cocoa, kind of an anti-ageing approach to baking. I think, I’ll have another slice just now.
An apple a day is supposed to keep the doctor away, but with the current cases of influenza the news keep talking about, I felt two apples were more reliable to do the trick than just one, or yet even more, trust is good, overdosing is better, and so I pelt, cored and sliced lots of apples, lots, an awful lot, actually, laid them out on some yeast dough, quite fatless a dough, I once read when you feel like having some cake, if you really, really need to have some, you are to have yeast cake as it is much less sinful a cake, much less calories, but we’re talking influenza prevention, not dieting, anyway, with some calvados sprinkled on it and dusted in vast amounts of cinnamon – cinnamon, by the way, is quite healthy, too, I forgot what good it actually does, but you can’t have enough of it, believe you me – it looked and smelled very yummy before I put it in the oven, and even yummier when it came out. As I’ve had several pieces, I think I had enough apples today to declaim in full health (and with kind of a Shakespearian accent): Influenza, where is thy sting?