Monday, September 28, 2009

Raclette Cheese Dinner Party

Last night, I attended an informal dinner party with a couple of friends, at one of their houses. We were supposed to exchange some pics from a recent trip we took together. My friends at this get-together were from Germany and Switzerland. They had decided to include dinner for the evening...a raclette cheese party of sorts.

The hostess pulled out a special griddle made for just this thing and my other friends brought all the ingredients. Wow!!!! For a few different reasons...WOW!!!

First, I have to say how wonderful it was to be in this type of atmosphere...a small get-together with a couple of girlfriends, at one of their houses. Expats usually go OUT...to a bar, a restaurant, a venue of some kind to get together. Last night's event was something I have missed very much from my days back home. I still miss my friends back home and I very much miss the events I used to attend among my friends back in the old neighborhood. While I have tried to have small parties over here or arrange get-togethers of some sort...people in this international environment seem to need or want a REASON to attnend these types of things. "Just for fun" is rarely a reason among some of them and for those that DO want to do anything for fun, they REALLY want to have lots of fun...usually away from home. So, last night was very NICE!

The girls pulled out all the stuff and introduced me to Raclette Cheese. It seems this is a popular food item in parts of Europe. They steamed some potatoes, cut up some mushrooms, onions and loaded up a bowl full of pineapple. They were really sweet...because they specifically chose not to include meat since I had mentioned on our trip (very casually) that I'm particularly picky about eating meat both in Shanghai AND during this pregnancy. So, they opted NOT to have it for dinner last night.

So, they showed me how to "use" the special griddle they had and how to put together combinations of food, using this cheese. O.M.G.!!!!! I can't remember a better time!! hahaha I was sitting in a beautiful home, with girlfriends, eating combinations of potatoes and cheese! And, OF COURSE, with my Swiss friend there, we topped the evening's meal off with Swiss chocolate! haha Really...only FEW other times can compare to this!!!

Raclette cheese...the main ingredient and event for such a party as this...is a strong and very flavorful cheese. The ayi had to back away from the smell of the cheese...as it was WAY to strong for her. haha But, those of us who LOVE cheese, it was almost heaven on earth! It's hard to find cheese over here, much less GOOD cheese. And what IS good cheese???

RACLETTE cheese is, by far, some of the best I've ever had. Interestingly enough, I've learned that many Europeans have never even tried a yellow cheese, as it is not very common to find on that side of the world. Cheddar is a foreign and much less favorable cheese for them. Now I know why. When you have cheese like this one to choose from...why go Cheddar??

Ok...this is about cheese. Ridiculous, right? However, THESE are the kinds of things I love learning about! The differences and details of other countries and cultures. Most of the expats I've spoken to over here AGREE that Shanghai provides an International comunity like no other place in the world. Take any big city...like London, New York, Sydney, Dubai, etc...and you still wouldn't get THIS kind of multi-cultural experience. Groups of people might live together in a community within a big city. But, that is very different than what you can experience over here in Shanghai. Here, you have your chinese community...and you have your International community. That's it...two basic groups. You are either chinese or you are not. The ones who are not, live together, as expats...meshing, learning, collaborating...together. It's WONDERFUL!! And I have always loved and appreciated that aspect of living here!

Recently I found out that Switzerland has SEVEN leaders...not one. While one of them may take the "head" position...it is only for meeting purposes, to lead the rest of the group in discussion. These seven leaders rotate each year, so that the "head" is never the same person. They make decisions for their country, based on a majority vote of these leaders. Wow...I never knew that!

Germany, in the opinion, of a couple of German ladies I know, doesn't harbor any ill will still between East and West Germans. However, they are quick to tell me that there really isn't any reason to linger or mingle between the two areas. Hmmmm...

Australia's last Prime Minister seemed to have a very tight relationship with ex-President Bush. Australians resented that their last Prime Minister seemed to have been a er... "bottom buddy" to Bush...and are glad that they have a new one. While they are still part of England's commonwealth, they do not get regular assistance from Great Britain, but could, if they really ever needed it...since they are still a part of Britain's Commonwealth.

Now...I'm not sure of ALL the details about what I just talked about and anyone reading this should keep in mind that these opinions and details were from individual sources. The POINT is, however, is that I have LOVED learning about things, and even versions of these types of things, from people over here. So many nuances of other cultures, politics and people that I never would have experienced in a different type of expat assignment.

Back to the cheese...
After last night's dinner party, I decided that I would completely LOVE hanging out in Switzerland for awhile! Come on! They [often] combine three of my favorite foods...cheese (and GOOD cheese at that), potatoes and chocolate. Mmmmmmm! hahaha My friend mentioned that for Christmas, they break out their fondue pots and eat lots and lots of cheese and chocolate for the Holiday season. Yeah...I haven't even TRIED her fondue yet! Raclette, Swiss chocolate and fondue...does life get any better than that???? Apparently not...for the Swiss.

The Swiss chocolate I had recently absolutely exceeded ANY dreams I could have ever had about chocolate! I mean, do they have chocolate engineers or inventors over there, perfecting their chocolate processes?? They must!! And their cows must be very, very, very happy. Because the cheese is absolutely incredible!!

The Swiss (and surrounding countries) know just how good the Swiss stuff is, because any time the subject of cheese or chocolate is brought up...they end up talking about the very serious topic of the cheese police. Yes, if you have ever watched that I Love Lucy episode where Lucy goes to Europe and tries to smuggle the food back by wrapping it up like a blanket, making it look lke a baby...then it was as true back then as it is now. hahaha The cheese police is a very tricky business...and is one of the Swiss' greatest challenges...getting their food products safely smuggled into other parts of the world. After tasting some of their stuff, I agree that anyone over here in Shanghai from Switzerland has an even greater challenge and LOSS by not having their wonderful food available to them.

I could ALMOST feel sorry for them...except I know what they can get when they DO go back! The yummiest cheese and chocolate on earth! hahaha Again...I've been ruined...for BOTH cheese and chocolate now. ;-)

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