Tales From Switzerland

Outside Lausanne

By Andrea Scarpino


It may be too much to call this trip to Europe a homecoming–I’ve never met this branch of my Italian family before, so I can’t really come home to them. But I feel something similar, a coming-home-for-the-first-time. Which means that I want to meet everyone who has any interest at all in meeting me. Most of my family is still in the South of Italy–Calabria–but Salvatore lives in Florence, and my cousin Patrizia and her husband Seamus in a small Swiss town outside of Lausanne.


So here we are in Switzerland, staying with Patrizia and Seamus on property that’s been in Seamus’ family for hundreds of years. Right down the hill from us: Seamus’ uncle’s chateau and a garden full of irises. And beyond: Mont Blanc looming.


Our first day here, we walked the iris gardens, learned how carefully they’re grown and tended, that no one has yet developed a purely red iris, that thousands of visitors come each year during the month that the irises bloom. We walked beyond the gardens through a wooded area and on a sloped hillside above us, the ringing of bells: cows grazing with bells tied to their necks. We sat in the woods and listened to the bells and talked constantly–about our childhoods, our family, Swiss politics, the troubled economy, how grapes are tended and made into wine (Patrizia is a sommelier), how worried we are for Obama’s re-election.


That night: a dinner party. Seamus is renowned chef, and in seemingly no time at all, he pulled together a vegetarian dinner party in our honor: cheese soufflé, asparagus risotto with a hollandaise sauce I would have eaten like soup, stuffed peppers and eggplant and zucchini, a green salad, cheese plate with six different cheeses, strawberries with meringue and fresh cream. And wine from his brother’s vineyard–crazy delicious.


And that was just the beginning of the amazing food we’ve eaten–Patrizia’s chickpea and potato soup with a drizzle of the best olive oil, fresh white asparagus perfectly steamed, artichoke pasta, green pea soup with cream, endive salad, red Thai curry that Zac says is the best he’s eaten. And last night, at a typical Swiss restaurant overlooking all of Lausanne, raclette and fondu, crusty bread, miniature pickles that aid digestion.


It’s true my pants have grown tighter since being is Switzerland, but it’s also true that I couldn’t care less. I feel full in every sense: with scenery–stepped vineyards, red tiled roofs, row after row of irises, red poppies peeking through wheat fields, snow-topped mountains that dip down into the lake, grassy parks, stone chalets–with food, with wine, with conversation, with new friendship. New plans.


Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

0 thoughts on “Tales From Switzerland”

  1. Wow Again, Andrea! I’ve mentioned on the POB blog before that I view individuals from an ecological perspective. Ecologically, talk to most people who reside in the U.S.A. and you’re talking to people whose selves and ancestors have been ripped out of their environment time and time again, and who have constantly been in a process of re-adaptation. When I went to the south of France, near Pau, or also I remember getting the feeling talking to a boatman along the Thames River, I was first exposed to people whose families truly have lived with their environment for generations, possibly even millenia. I asked the boatman how long his family had been in the boating business on the Thames. He looked a bit bewildered, and then responded, “Forever.” It sounds as if you’re getting a taste of that now both gastronomically and environmentally. It’s so awesome, yes? And quite delicious!


  2. I so appreciate your travelogue, and this one makes me long to visit both Italy, where my own father is from, and Switzerland, where my chef husband was born! How funny that we have these parallels! I look forward to your next dispatch!


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