Saturday, 6 July 2013

Where there is smoke, there is fire

Just before leaving Switzerland, I am finally completely on board with the Swiss national hobby: grilling sausages. My technique though still leaves a lot to be desired.

Today, again, I'll go up a mountain with good friends L. and S. packed with sausages in all shapes and sizes. And tons of highly toxic fire starter cubes, extra long and fat matches, foil grill trays, barbeque tongs and between us about eight Swiss army knifes. We pack it into the funicular and up we go. A ten minute stroll brings us to the nearest grill pit. Luckily there is a forest to explore, so within seconds we have lost all ten of our children. Utter bliss!
Before we even contemplate unpacking all our bbq tools, we are put to shame by three very fit middle-aged Swiss, who no doubt spend the last three hours hiking up and are now sharpening sticks with their pocket knifes, so they can spear the ubiquitous sausages on, ready to be grilled. While two of them are busy with the stick sharpening, the third is lighting a fire. It all happens so fast! I am desperate for a replay, so I can watch an learn. But allthough there is probably a (weather) webcam around somewhere, I still haven't worked out how to watch that from the top of a mountain. Anyway, within twenty minutes or so the Swiss hikers have finished eating and are ready for the descend.
In absence of husband W., who normally doesn't let me go near a BBQ or fire place, I am thrilled to be let loose in nature with a box of matches on such a regular basis (the kids and I have barbequed at least five times over the last two weeks). And thanks to the small fortune I spent on 'fire lighting solutions', I am getting really rather good at lighting fires.
As is turns out it's not my lucky day. A young Swiss guy who is taking his two grannies out for a picknick, allready has a roaring fire going. Since he and his elderly companions had their fill of sausages, he insists that we use his grill pit. So now all we need to do is sit around and stuff ourselves with paprika crisps and bread, while we wait for our assortment of meat to sizzle.
We have such a wide variety of sausages on the BBQ (big fat white 'Kalbsbratwursten', tiny chipolata's, Walter Fritz's famous Wurst - we love the package! - and fiery red merquez type sausages), that it feels as if we cleared the processed meat counter, but then friend L. reveals that we managed to completely miss Switzerland most loved sausage: the cervelat. Phone in hand, she fills us in on the details.
Orginally made from beef and pig brains, the Swiss nowadays produce 160 million cervelats annually, although by the end of the 19th century they stopped filling them with brains. That's allready a lot to take in, but L. is just getting up some steam. ,,The Swiss", she starts with a devious smile,  ,,couldn't source enough casing 'material' for their sausages locally, so moved on to using Brazilian zebu intestines some twenty years ago".
Undeterred by my shrieks of horror L. continues with the 'cervelat' saga. And - credit where credit's due - I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Because, poor Swiss, in 2006 the EU banned the import of animal parts from Brazil in an attempt to stop the spreading of mad cow disease.
Quickly the Swiss set up a 'Cervelat Task Force' (really, you can't make this up).The sausage crisis was apparantly even subject of a parliamentary debate as cervelats are such an important part of a Swiss childhood that people stopped having babies altogether (I did make that up, by the way). It wasn't until a few years ago that the special task force cunningly managed to solve the cervelat upset, bij sourcing all sorts of (bovine) intestines from Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay.
I am sooooo pleased that I could share this. Sausage anyone?