Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love that it’s about coming together over a meal and celebrating how lucky we are. Normally, I spend Thanksgiving with my family; however, this year is different. This year, I am celebrating my 30th birthday in Europe. And, as usual, Thanksgiving factors into the scheme of things, so we decided to spend Thanksgiving in Switzerland. And it was awesome.
We had a long layover (23 hours) in Zürich, so our time here was short. But we managed to see a decent amount of the city before and after the obligatory first-day abroad nap. Zürich is beautiful and picturesque, with narrow streets flanked by pristine and interesting shops selling chocolates, watches and other fashionable goods. It felt quite smaller than I expected, and it was super quaint since the city was setting up its Christmas market stalls and decorations. Unfortunately the market didn’t open until Friday—the day we left—but at least we got to see how it’d all look.
Apparently, some hotels cater a full, traditional American thanksgiving meal for homesick ex-pats (or perhaps curious locals!). We, however, decided to turn our dinner over to the Swiss way of life, which meant fondue. Luckily for us, a charming restaurant known for their fondue (Swiss Chuchi) was just around the corner from where we were staying. In addition to fondue, we also ordered a ham raclette since it seemed we wanted to maintain one aspect of American holidays: overeating. Behold: our Swiss Thanksgiving feast!
Raclette is both a type of Swiss-made cheese and a dish… We had both! Here’s how you do it: The dish is set up where you can grill a bit of everything, such as meat (ham in our case), onions, gherkins, mushrooms, and so forth. You slide a slice of raclette cheese on a pan that melts right below the grill. Once everything is warm and the cheese is melted, you take a boiled potato from the sack and mix everything together to make a delicious bite. It was fun mixing different ingredients together, and I think I found a new love in warm gherkins!
My raclette creations eased off of the cheese after the first round. Because, there was also fondue on the table. We ordered a traditional four-cheese fondue, complete with a dry white wine and kirsch (cherry brandy). I’m pretty sure the cheeses were Emmentaler, Gruyère, Comté and maybe Appenzeller. Whatever it was, it was delicious.
The best part of the meal was how communal it was, even if it was just Keith and me together. Our table was packed with food and we had to maneuver back and forth to share, but that made it fun and assuredly in the tradition of Thanksgiving. The Swiss eat fondue year-round, lingering over it and enjoying each other’s company… I don’t blame them, especially as the weather turns colder, the thought of warm, melted cheese seems to be just right.
Prior to dinner, we also ate at this little take-away fast-food called Sternen Grill. Sausages are the fast-food of choice in Swizterland. We got a St. Gallen style sausage (veal and pork) that came with some very spicy mustard to dip it in and a wonderful bürli (roll) that had the perfect hard crust and seriously doughy interior. It was delicious, and just what we needed after landing in Zürich. We sat outside in the alley, watching all kinds of people order the wax-paper wrapped würsts… I got a kick out of men and women in pristine suits balancing their sausage, bread and mustard as they ate. No one can resist a good sausage.
Our first of what will surely be many Thanksgivings abroad was a complete success, even if I was missing my pumpkin pie. (We had some at O’Hare shortly before departing on Wednesday evening… That counts, right?) I’m very grateful to have the opportunities to spend time like this abroad, and to have a great life back in Chicago. I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving too!