Food for Thought

Published on 24th March, 2010 in Global Bloggers by Amy Jost

3938229246_8e2b33cbcbWhy is it that in spite of a diet filled with fatty cheese and chocolate, my students, and most of the Swiss for that matter, are so trim? The Swiss are one of the top consumers of cheese, ranked 4th worldwide. It’s reported that the average Swiss eats 20 kg of cheese a year. Add to that the nearly 12 kgs of chocolate the average Swiss gobbles up and it just seems so unfair that they still look so good.

These questions and more were addressed when we embarked on Global’s unit two, Eating and Drinking.

Food is referred to in an important political idiom here in Switzerland. They talk about the ‘Rösti Graben’ which could be translated to ‘the hash brown border’. Hash browns are another rich component in the Swiss diet. They are usually served with a fried egg on top of them. One can practically feel one’s arteries clogging while eating that meal.

The ‘Rösti Graben’ is the geographical border between the two largest language areas in Switzerland, the German speaking and the French speaking regions. The Swiss tend to live life, see the world, and cast their votes, depending on which side of that border they grew up in. They are a peaceful nation, but the divide between those two mentalities is not to be underestimated. Those differences aside, both sides of the potato border were in agreement about food during the lesson.

An interesting reading assignment from the eworkbook started us off. It addressed the different diets of the Japanese, the Latin Americans, the French, as well as the Mediterranean region.

It claimed that the French don’t eat too much, but know how to enjoy their food. My students from the French-speaking part of Switzerland suggested that perhaps that was due to the French talking so much at a meal, whereas the Swiss French speakers, being quieter, get plenty of food.

It wasn’t surprising to me that my landlocked class wasn’t all that experimental concerning seafood and sushi, two staples in the Japanese diet. But, given the choice of having a meal for a special occasion, most chose something exotic. Mexican, fondue Chinoise (translated to Chinese fondue, which is a meat and broth based fondue compared to the standard Swiss cheese version), a meal with many courses, and lots of chocolate dessert were their choices.

A unique Swiss experience is growing up with the whole family eating most of their daily meals together. Most of my students’ fathers came home from work to spend lunchtime with their families. That trend is slowly changing, but many Swiss moms are still at home and cook lunch for their families every day.

Global’s lovely photos and interesting speaking exercises made us all hungry that morning in class, as well as happy to spend 90 minutes learning English in a painless manner – talking about something we all love – food.

Photo credit: Scaredy Kat. Creative Commons Licence


  • Wonderful – great ideas on how to develop the topic of food, and very interesting statistics and observations!

    Alison on 25 March, 2010
  • Thanks, Alison! Enjoy your next fondue!

    Amy Jost on 29 March, 2010