I realize that the title is controversial, and would love to hear your thoughts!
A couple of weekends ago I was out in a beautiful Swiss village visiting a very nice household wares shop. I could spend a day in there: stroking bone china, admiring cake decorating sets and coveting pricey Japanese kitchen knive-sets. To save money I usually only go there with a chaperone…..
On a whim I popped by some friends of mine. A couple who loves to eat and live well. They have two very cute children and the mom has a heart of gold and on top of that looks like a harder-working version of Angelina Jolie…..
During my visit they were preparing for their daughters 6th birthday party. Remembering the parties of my childhood I expect 20 kids with a magician in tow to arrive at any minute. Looking around for a big cake with frosting, and little gift-wrapped give away leaving gifts I spot cupcakes. In lieu of a complex cake with frosting and ballerinas and mermaids on top there were cup-cakes covered in sprinkles – all identically sized, cup-cake clones. Looking as though someone measured out everything with great attention to detail. The dad, who is an architect, and “designed” the cupcakes has, he told me, made at least 1000 cupcakes since they have had kids. I asked about the recipe, and somewhat shame-faced he said “Leisi” . For some reason his daughter loves chocolate cake from the package…he was loathe to admit it, but there it is. Goes to show that gourmets are made not always born.
To note, cakes in cartons, only really caught on here in the last 5 years and only because the ones on offer were ones we didn’t have here: brownies, devils food , chocolate chip cookie that kind of thing. Historically as a nation of simple farmers (yes that was before banking and watches) the conviction that a good woman looks after her family by cooking wholesome food from scratch is still held dear. During the wars being a neutral country Swiss men didn’t get drafted into service to the same extent they did in other countries and so women didn’t go to work in place of the men, meaning that the solid “olde-style” values were in a better position to survive here. Depending on the type of woman you are this either great or not so great, in the work-place I vote (emphatically) for not so great. However, still today, thanks to the economic stability of the country, Swiss women have the luxury of being able to work part-time if they wish, usually when they have kids, or not at all. In summary this ends up meaning that in Switzerland a cake made from cake-mix doesn’t count as home-made. This brings me to an anecdote in the US, I was at a party in Washington D.C. talking to another woman, and discussing baking, and we both discovered we love being in the kitchen. I commented on the weird, to me, observation that many of my American friends rate pre-prepared food which has been minimally altered at home as being solidly home-made. The lady looked at me as though I had said something very strange, which I guess I had, and said “Oh, but of course; I always make my home-made brownies using cake-mix” – I was deeply embarrassed, although not as much as when talking to another American lady about beef, I said that in my opinion American corn-fed beef tastes good but is too fatty, and that I prefer European style or South American style grass-fed beef. The answer to that was “I have never been outside the United States, so I really wouldn’t know”
Since then I am careful when voicing my opinions. But not here and not today. So I bring this discussion to a party near DC – ladies, and gentlemen of Fiesta Friday, I look forward to your answers 🙂