With the baking season coming (isn't it always baking season? Thank goodness my daughter thinks so), I thought I'd share where to find a few ingredients great for baking that I had found a bit elusive. I don't say unavailable because I am convinced that most everything we want/need is available, sometimes not just as we are used to, sometimes for a price. However finding it depends on tenacity and being open that you can find it.
I was having tea with a new friend yesterday and we were talking about what it is like for us as expats in Switzerland. When I first arrived I found some people telling me about all the things that weren't available, some even sounding quite distressed about cooking/eating here. However, while I may miss a certain brand of this or a particular type of that, for me the tradeoffs make it all worthwhile. While I haven't (yet) found a good pre-made liquid chicken broth, I have found beautiful small and extremely tasty chickens. While I notice that I don't have access to all fruits and vegetables all the time, what is available is beautiful, sometimes unknown, challenging me to buy and try. I have also learned that when someone says "you can't find that here" to think of it the beginning of a fun challenge. Sometimes I find just those items right in the local Coop or Migros. Of course another part of finding items for me was getting enough German under my belt or just getting over being intimidated to ask. I do find that the Swiss don't offer help - I have heard they don't ever want to presume that you need help - but if I ask they usually go above and beyond the customer service I am accustomed to in the U.S. Just yesterday a friend and I were asking for graham crackers. They didn't find them but 2 employees got involved and searched with us extensively. In the end my friend ended up buying an alternative cracker to try for s'mores. Who knows - maybe the cookies she chose will be as good if different, or (dare I say it?) even better!
Finally, back to my finds. We received an email here at expat kochen asking about where to find evaporated milk. I decided to start at a large Migros (Claraplatz, Basel) and sure enough, found it and many varieties. I particularly love the sweetened variety available in can or tube! That same day I looked for Molasses as I have heard that you can mix it with sugar for a great brown sugar substitute. Again, I asked for help. The first woman didn't know what it was and so got her colleague. Sure enough at the bottom of the jams and jellys is Molasses for 2.80 CHF. Here are some translations in case you need to ask for help yourself.
evaporated milk = kondensmilch = lait condensé
sweetened condensed milk = kondensmilch gezuckert = lait condensé sucré
molasses = Melasse = mélasse
Thanks to the American Women's Club Cookbook I was able to get my vocabulary down before shopping. The book is a wonderful resource not only for recipes, but for conversions, translations, and "where to find" tips. It is available at Bider and Tanner, and I believe it only costs 5 CHF.
If you are looking for anything in particular please send us an email. If we can help great, and if not we will gladly start the search. Along those lines, I have a tip on fresh turkey from a nearby farmer in France. You just call 3 days in advance and he will kill the bird for you, apparently available in about 3 different sizes. Now that will probably be the freshest turkey I will have ever had! We plan a visit there this week so look for more info soon. By the way I have also found turkey legs and breasts at Hieber's, and have heard that you can order a bird through the butcher at Coop or Migros. Meanwhile, I wish you happy searching, finding, and creative substituting!