Saturday, November 26, 2011

My nuclear bunker is full of junk

but more on that later.  This is just to let you all know that we are now insured for 100 million francs in car liability insurance.  Although this comes with a nuclear facility clause (one must always read the fine print!) so that if we were to damage a nuclear plant our insurance will only cover 20 million.  In case you didn't yet know, in Switzerland one must be insured for all sorts of things.

There is also Civil Liability insurance of course for non-vehicular instances, such as a scenario in which Small Fish breaks a toy at her preschool.  Imagine my surprise when I naively showed up on her first day and the teacher asked for a copy of our CL insurance.  Her eyes got wide too in disbelief at how unprepared we were in such matters.  "But what if she breaks something?" she gasped.  It was a mutual culture shock moment.

Yep, the Swiss are prepared.  By law every dwelling must have a fallout shelter for every resident, so it is not surprising that Switzerland is number one in the world in nuclear war preparedness with a shelter to house  80% or so of its residents. Some towns hand out iodine tablets as new residents register, but we were not so lucky in Lausanne.

Our nuclear bunker is full of construction materials and tools, but I guess it's still good to know that we have a place to wait out a bomb raid.  Then we will perhaps see if the saying is true that after a nuclear fallout only cockroaches and Swiss will remain....and a few lost Alaskans.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This little piggy went to market

Potted olive tree for sale at the florist
...and came home with exotic delicacies to delight all senses.  I love Saturday markets in Lausanne.  There is a special atmosphere in the old town beneath the Cathedral on Saturday mornings, where street vendors sell local fruits, vegetables, cheeses, flowers, wine, as well as produce imported from far away.  We have enjoyed Moroccan spices, Italian artichokes, flowers from Provence, cakes from Algeria -the list of items is too long.  You just have to go check it out for yourself some day.  By the way, having come from Alaska, I am still amazed that there are olive trees around us, ones that bear fruit in November.  I like this climate (although I admittedly miss Alaska too).

It was here, at the Saturday market last week that we came to know Fatiha, Algerian angel, pastry chef, and our new best friend.  Fatiha and her husband Jean-Pierre run La Maison des Amandes, a pastry shop in Vevey.  On Saturdays they set up in Lausanne and sell their hand-crafted oriental pastries in the street.  Well, let me tell you these cakes taste even better than they look.  But more than that, you rarely meet a woman as energetic, kind and magnetic as Fatiha.  We are repeat customers now, and we come back to talk to her as much as we do for her fine pastries.
Fatiha's craft

The quality of food in Switzerland would deserve its own blog entry, but really, there is so much to blog about and so little time.  We still shop at big chain grocery stores too just as we did in the US, but even the big store-experience is a bit different.  For one, as you enter you will see that many shopping carts are equipped with a giant magnifying glass to better read ingredients with.

I will share a quick anecdote though.  Some time ago here in Suisse, I caved to the onslaught of begging from my children to score some Fruit Loops, thinking this small treat will ease their homesickness.  I inconspicuously buried a box at the bottom of my shopping cart feeling like I was acquiring a banned substance in a land of well-groomed, well-fed offspring.  At the checkout, I half-felt like I was fulfilling some negative stereotype of Americans and their junk food as I placed the colorful box on the belt.  I figured the health-conscious Swiss never stoop so low as to serving Fruit Loops for breakfast.  When we got home, and the young ones immediately dug into the box, we still felt like we were getting away with something.

Until we poured the first bowl.  "What the heck?" said Big Moose.

Swiss Fruit Loops look different.  Their colors are muted, because they are, as it turns out, colored with natural ingredients such as spinach, carrot, and paprika extracts.  Swiss Fruit Loops taste the same, but much less sweet.  As it turns out, Kellogs manufactures a much healthier version for some markets (EU, Swiss, Australian) than the US due to strict food regulation.  Check out the difference, here is a quick comparison:

Swiss Fruit Loops (each 30g serving)
sugar: 7.5 g
protein: 2.5 g
calcium: 29 % of recommended daily intake

US Fruit Loops (each 30 g serving)
sugar: 12 g
protein: 1 g
calcium: 0 % (except when milk is added)

Reading the list of ingredients gets even more interesting, as the Swiss version has roughly 7-8 listed ingredients with the first being cereal flours in 76 % by weight.  What is the number one ingredient in the US version?  Yep, you probably guessed it: sugar.  I will not read all the ingredients on the US box, but let's just say the list is far longer, and the words a lot less likely to be found in a regular dictionary.  Looking at the Swiss box, I see words like carrots, vegetables, and cereal and my brain doesn't hurt.  Looking at the US box, I see the preservative BHT.  Not good news for US kids.  Anyhow, the moral of the story: The Swiss are looking out for their junk food junkies.  Thank you Switzerland.


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