Sinking to new lows in the kitchen

We are sliding down the chute into culinary mediocrity, one forkful at a time.

The after-school cookie-muffin-and-scone-baking mom, that was me. No trans- fatty acids or cyclamates in my kids home-made snacks, just good old-fashioned butter and sugar.

How things have changed. Cooking in Switzerland has been challenging, mostly because six months in and I still haven’t figured out how to work our newfangled state-of-the-art oven. That and the combined horrors of shopping for food without taking out a mortgage has had an effect on our dining.

It began over the summer when I was in Canada and Dave took it upon himself to try out some prepared packaged meals from the grocery story. To his surprise, and later mine, it turned out they weren’t so bad, and with pricing between 5 and 7 Swiss Francs each, these meals have become staples in our weekly diet.

That is pretty low in my books, but today we sunk lower. I purchased pre-seasoned chicken breasts, reasoning that with pre-packaged food on the table four days out of seven, we were probably headed for heck anyway. How lame does a cook have to be to buy meat seasoned by a store? As lame as I am, as it turns out. A little pan-frying in butter and the pre-seasoned chicken turned out to be pretty good.

The price of vegetables makes me flinch (6 Francs a kilo for broccoli), but we have discovered packaged produce, such as bananas is much cheaper than the loose stuff in the bins. We had avoided the packaged produce precisely because it smacked of shoddy goods  – why package something if it wasn’t to conceal over-ripeness or bruising? It turns out that’s not the case in Switzerland, so we now buy our banans at 1.80 Francs for a big plastic bag instead of 3 Francs for a kilo.

We’ve also started shopping for cheeses, milk and other goods, mostly non-perishable, at a local convenience store called “Denners.” We earlier bought ground beef there and were suitably punished for that crime at dinner time. It tasted of something not quite beef. I don’t want to think about it. So, steering clear of beef, we have found other items there to be “okay” and weirdly cheaper than in the regular grocery store. This is the opposite of convenience stores in Canada where food is always priced way higher than in supermarkets.

I don’t know how much I’ve pared off our monthly 2,000 Francs grocery budget, but if we settle into this new “method,” I’ll try another week of collecting receipts and report back.

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