Food has always been an integral part of Swiss culture and the space in and tools with it is prepared also play a key role in the comfort and joy it brings to family and friends.
“I explored the kitchen. I took everything in: the good quality of the mat on the wood floor…; a practical minimum of well-worn kitchen things, precisely arranged. A Silverstone frying pan and a delightful […] vegetable peeler – a peeler to make even the laziest grandmother enjoy slip, slipping those skins off. It was clear that in spite of the disorder everything was of the finest quality.”
This quote is from the novel Kitchen by the Japanese author Banana Yoshimoto, but the description could actually apply to home kitchens throughout Switzerland.
For centuries, Swiss kitchens have been characterised by a sense of neatness, a touch of familial warmth, a solid practicality, and a penchant for producing food that nourishes both body and soul – a necessary thing in a mountainous nation.
While I was growing up, I realised that keeping a good kitchen wasn’t just a matter of keeping the pantry well-stocked and ensuring that meals are prepared and served on time. The pots, pans, and other tools used for preparation matter, as do the plates and bowls used for serving. Kitchen linens – from commonplace dish and hand towels to good placemats and napkins – are just as necessary.
I grew up with my grandmother’s Meyer-Mayor kitchen linens, and I must say these are practically unbeatable in terms of aesthetics, quality, and durability. Its headquarters located in the Swiss town of Bütschwil, the brand is part of the Rigotex group of textile manufacturers, and has a sterling reputation for crafting everything from kitchen towels to both bib and half aprons – in short, just about everything you need to stock your linen closet at home.
What my family has loved about the brand is the superb way each item is made: jacquard-woven and usually with a combination of cotton and linen, no synthetics here. This has put Meyer-Mayor at the forefront of sustainability long before the term became a buzzword for eco-friendliness. Its products are made to last and I am proud to say that some of the family linens are still with me and these continue to be useful in my Singapore home.
Zena Swiss is another Swiss-made brand with quite a reputation for quality and durability, particularly when it comes to their signature REX vegetable peeler. Specifically referred to in catalogues as the REX Mod Int 11002, this silvery wonder has retained the same appearance since it was first marketed in 1947 - after all, if it isn't broken, why fix it?
Even in the technologically-savvy 21st century, the REX is still a handy tool to have in one's kitchen. The ergonomic handle is wrought from a single sheet of aluminium and the blade and potato-eye remover are both crafted from very good steel. Lightweight, compact, and easy to use, it isn't surprising that this very affordable piece of Swiss Design has a place in many households both in Switzerland and across the globe.
If you’re lucky enough to have a REX in your kitchen (if you don’t, you can buy one here) we have a little recipe that will help show off its abilities as it involves peeling and grating in generous measure. Potato Rösti is a great favourite of young and old alike and it is something that is very easy to do in even the simplest of kitchens.
The thing about Rösti is that the recipe differs among Switzerland’s cantons. This one is quite easy, uses just three ingredients, and can be enjoyed as full meal (ad some cheese, bacon or a fried egg), a snack or a side dish. Take note that you will need to prepare the potatoes the day before.
- 1kg waxy potatoes, boiled in their skins the day before
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Clarified butter for frying
1) Peel and grate the boiled potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Season with the salt.
2) Heat the clarified butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the potatoes and cook for around five minutes, turning occasionally.
3) Press the potatoes into a flattish cake with pancake turner or spatula. Leave to cook undisturbed for around fifteen minutes.
4) Place a flat plate upside-down over the pan, then flip the rösti over onto the plate. Add a bit more clarified butter to the pan, then slide the rösti back in. Leave to cook for an additional fifteen minutes.
5) Transfer to a large dish and serve immediately.
Voilà, Bon Appetit!
So much more from Switzerland: Shop all Kitchen Comfort Items in our Homeware Section
Photo credits pictures 1 and 2: Niedermann Walti Architects (https://www.nw-a.ch/)
Kitchen Design: by Niedermann Walti Architects (https://www.nw-a.ch/)