Wittier Word Weavers

Writers' Club of Whittier


Mystery Menu in the Swiss Alps

We sat with our friends high on a slope in the Swiss Alps, alternately studying the restaurant’s menu and basking in the view. Far across the valley we could see glimpses of Reichenbach Falls of Sherlock Holmes fame. We’d been beneath it only hours ago, recalling all the drama associated with it.

Now, however, we’d come up another mountainside where we found a stand-alone eaterie near the top of the trail. And we were ready for it, after several hours exploring the area. We chose a Swiss-style wooden picnic bench, one of several outside the restaurant. Chateau-like, the building looked every inch as if it should be in Switzerland, which of course it was.

edelweiss-3297_1920The sun brightened the day, and the cool mountain breezes freshened it. Looking farther up the grassy slope, one could almost imagine Julie Andrews and her troupe of the Captain’s children, in lederhosen and matching clothes, emerging over the crest and singing merrily of eidelweisse.

But back to lunch. We’d not been in Switzerland enough days to have mastered even basic menu items. While adventuresome, and always eager to try the local fare, we did have a certain curiosity about what it might consist of. Nor had we even begun to get acquainted with the spoken language.

Our waitress (very indigeous-looking in what we might choose to think of as a yodeling costume) was accustomed to foreign travelers, however, and did her best to help us. I was intrigued by one particular plate lunch with what appeared to offer some kind of meat. The waitress and I and my companions tried to untangle the words and gestures to reach some form of comprehension. She seemed to say that it was a formed piece of meat (what kind? who knew?) that would be sliced and sauteed. (Wait–sauteed is from the French! How did that get to be a common denominator between a Swiss waitress and English-speaking customers?)

Good enough. I went for it. The others chose a variety of items, which is really a pretty good course to follow when you’re navigating unfamiliar culinary waters. Waiting to be served made a pleasant interlude as we recounted our morning’s adventures and plotted our next destinations.

Our meals came. All were delicious, but don’t ask me what everyone had. I had my mystery meat, sauteed, and it indeed was tasty.

The waitress, of course, wanted my help words to describe it. Then she’d be better able to relate some appropriate description to her next American visitors. Amongst ourselves, we’d already pretty much figured out what we would call it, and my friend began to blurt it out. We stopped her just in time.

“No! Don’t say it’s like Spam, or NO one will ever order it!”