From the Land of Fondue to the Land of Lemons
It started with Christmas Day fondue in Fribourg, Switzerland. When I am a hostess, I like knowing what my guests enjoy eating so I can do what I can to make them happy. Yet I felt hesitant as a guest to say that all I wanted for Christmas was the chance to eat melted cheese. Maybe my hosts could read my mind; when I found out they had planned on fondue for dinner, it was the best Christmas gift ever. We enjoyed dipping bread, potatoes, and apples into the unctuous mass of Vacherin.
Switzerland. The Edelweiss flower kitsch is classier than in Austria, adorning chocolate instead of umbrellas, and accordingly everything is more expensive. A country that boasts impressive Alpine landscapes and stunning lakes and was recently ranked number one on the Where-to-be-Born Index in 2013, it leaves me cold (except after eating fondue, of course). I’ve been there several times to visit friends, who thankfully provide the necessary warmth.
Warmth from the surroundings can be found further south. After visiting family in Piemonte and being stuffed with Panettone and clementines, we traversed the last Alps remaining between us and the Mediterranean, arriving in Menton in time to ring in the new year. Though I can’t say that we went there to “get re-kindle the authentic” as one tourism website states is possible, it was great to be able to breathe in the sea air, soak up the sunshine, and walk along the beach. I am a firm believer in the restorative properties of a good stroll – no rush, no hurry, no goal. The market hall above was full of delights including kaki-pommes, fruit that are a cross between an apple and a persimmon whose English name I have yet to discover, and fougasse mentonnaise, a sweet cake with anise, pine nuts, almonds, and raisins. A kilo jar of honey from the garrigue from Sospel found its way into our pantry. Its sweetness will cheer us up for weeks to come.
Monaco is just a hop, skip, and a jump west of Menton. We checked out one of its markets, the Marché de la Condamine, on the Place d’Armes. Covered in tiles with different fruit and vegetable motifs, the square itself was more impressive than the wares offered at the market. Menton was ruled by Monaco until 1848, when it became a free city to avoid paying export taxes to Monaco for its lemons. The city is the only area in France with a climate mild enough to produce these sour fruits. Two lemons accompanied us home and are patiently waiting in the fruit bowl to be turned into something good to eat. What shall I make with them?