by Gino De Blasio | 4 Minute Read
There are times when flying to certain foreign countries can leave you with a sense of culinary dredd; none more so than the charming yet equally confusing, Switzerland. For all of its natural beauty, impressive chocolate, your bowels stand a greater chance of survival in a quarantined diphtheria riddled village, compared to the nation’s obsession with melted cheese.
Unless you were born in the 1970’s or attended a ghastly reenactment, fondue has a rightful place on the dining table; along with Mateus (1) rose and a Fleetwood Mac album, of course for that era. But raclette is more like the ugly cousin you never speak of, or refuse to admit that they are family; they equally fill you with unpleasant physical pain and the bi-product is that you clench your way through breakfast in their company.
Of course not all melted cheese is equal. It has kept a special place in the heart of the Great Brits, and anyone wishing to blend in. Commonly found on toast, the arguments of which is the best cheese for the job can stop a dinner party in it’s tracks and if you really wanted to make things spicy, just throw in the words “worcestershire sauce.” No matter what class you or your peers deem you to be in, it is a fight waiting to happen.
Whilst fondue is still ushered around like the second coming in French Ski resorts, raclette has this somewhat deity association, where table top stoves have been invented for the job, and both the charcuterie and bacteria infested milk can be found ready prepared to fit the size of the trays that they will inhabit, apres melt.
Fondue is simple; it’s a bowl with a load of melted cheese; raclette requires instructions, patience and the necessary amount of concentration and sobriety to understand when too much gooeyness on far too much charcuterie, potatoes and other things which should never be placed in trays or under the subject in question will cause you actually bodily harm.
Sure, I get it, it’s the personification of #foodporn if you were even interested in such things. The sight of seeing melted cheese scraped onto dishes for a foodie is akin to a person with cleanliness OCD witnessing cable ties in a well maintained server room and hand sanitiser on every desk.
And Switzerland seems to be the natural home of the raclette world, it embraces the kind of order that grated cheese (2) on toast could never muster. It welcomes the croque monsieur like it was one of their own and they accept that fondue has a place in the hearts and artery walls of anyone visiting one of their spectacular ski villages.
Raclette is not designed for finesse or apparently flavour, in every experience this author has had, but it is designed for cosy nights in, party evenings out and for sharing and maybe this is where there are the bigger problems to raclette and similar styled dishes.
Sharing plates and boards are common, but they are filled with trepidation of, “do you want the last slice” or thinking secretly, ‘if they have that last morsel of panko prawns, I’m going to f**k them up!’ We’ve all experienced food greed, jealousy and anger because of these sharing plates; they aren’t fun.
The thought that your stomach lining has to handle the coagulated clump of cheese that sits in your large intestine overnight because someone else wanted to have their yearly hit of cholesterol and bad bacteria in one shot is testament enough that sharing, and Switzerland’s most unrefined dish, should be served when you’re not around.
This piece was brought to you with a flight to Geneva via Easyjet, the Swiss rail network and the beautiful town of Vevey in the canton of Vaud. Great places for raclette, should you wish to have some are, Restaurant Le Museum (Rue de la garre, Montreux) and Pinte Besson (Rue de l’Ale 4, 1003 Lausanne).
1) Mateus rose is the abomination of portuguese wine that everyone was told was the real taste of portugal in the 1970s. It continued to live a life of unchallenged rose solitude until people discovered what their tastebuds were intended for and decided to stick with red, or white.
2) This is a bold statement but there is science backing me up on this! Cheese should be grated never sliced on a cheese on toast!