Tuesday, June 01, 2004

OUT AND ABOUT: Pigs Feet, Toblerone and Bern

Did you ever wonder how many calories an ounce of Toblerone chocolate has in comparison to a ounce of Emmentaler cheese? Were you ever curious about the origins of the Berner platter? Were the French involved?

Those were all questions I was considering on Saturday evening in a 10-question true and false quiz handed out before the third course at a Swiss heritage dinner. While the event was not officially hosted by the Swiss Embassy (it was hosted by the Swiss-American society in Washington), multiple embassy officials were there, including the soon-to-be ambassador to Vietnam.

Dinner for 52 was held at a residence near the Carderock Naval Surface Warfare Center off MacArthur Boulevard out on the way to Great Falls. The dinner's theme was a "Celebration of Bern," Switzerland's capital, which included a whole host of Bern-themed entertainment options, including a magic show, comedy routine and quiz. (Besides the children of the Swiss military attache, I was the youngest person there. The Swiss are an aged, stoic (some might say icy), federalist society. But I have found them to be quite interesting, though somewhat stodgy. Others I have found to be proper, though grounded eccentrics. I was acting as driver and escort for my 85-year-old great aunt who married into a part-Swiss family. But there was someone was older, as in 98 years-old.)

During the quiz, I somehow guessed my way to second place, winning a large bar of Toblerone chocolate ("Oh, oh, oh! You love the Toblerone. How nice!" the mistress of ceremonies said to me when picking up my prize.) But apparently, I missed out on the top prize, which was a complimentary in-home catered dinner by the famed chef at the French ambassador's residence, who was our chef that evening. The chef, aided by his equivalent from the German Embassy, created an authentic Berner platter.

"People in Bern, certainly like the pigs," said one Swiss-American woman, commenting on the platter of varied pork slicings. Sausages, bacons, and other hunks of pork are integral parts of such a platter. It was all there, on top of a bed of green beans and sauerkraut.

The night's hostess greeting me at the buffet-line: "You like the pig's foot, ya?"

[hesitation from me] ... "Oh, ... yes, of course."

[winking at me] ... "Oh yes, you will enjoy it." She spoons it on, nodding her head with matronly glee.

If you haven't had pig's foot, start with the muscles that form the toes. The meat there is a little tougher and edible. The further you move up the fleshy stump, the more gelatinous it is. (You may remember a scene in "The Great Outdoors" when John Candy finishes the steak eating challenge and is at the end forced to eat the carved off grizzle ... yeah, it's sort of like that.) I didn't eat much, asking the wine server to refill my glass to make it go down a little easier.


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