Is there anything more American than apple pie? Maybe baseball, but nobody really watches baseball. It’s just an excuse to drink beer and eat bad stadium food. Baseball fans, you know it’s true! It might be a bit cliche, but Travis and I both love pie, especially fruit pie. Yet we moved to Europe in July and I still hadn’t used the oven. When Trav’s first birthday in Switzerland rolled around in October though, it was time to give it a spin.
Travis has been after me to make him a pie for months, despite my litany of excuses.
I don’t have a pie plate.
This oven is so different.
Fruit is so expensive here!
Valid reasons, all, but since October is his birthday month, I could no longer resist.
birthday month - /ˈbərTHˌdā mənTH/ - noun
Fun tradition of spoiling the birthday person rotten for the entire month in which their birthday falls. Gifts can be given, arguments conceded, bets forfeited, errands run, favorite meals cooked, unsavory chores undertaken, etc.
*Use your birthday month wisely. Turnabout is fair play during your sig ot's birthday month, otherwise known as BDM.
Switzerland has a peculiar tradition in which the birthday person is expected to provide dessert to co-workers on his/her own birthday. We asked a Swiss friend here why this is tradition. He explained that it’s the best – and sometimes only – way to announce to your co-workers and friends that it’s your birthday.
Well played, Switzerland. Well played.
So instead of being celebrated with balloons, cake, and office shenanigans festively “decorating” his lab space, Trav put his wife to work in the kitchen.
Typically I make strawberry/rhubarb pie, his favorite, but I no longer have a garden cranking out both, nor a healthy stash (of rhubarb, ya pot heads) put away in the freezer. Both are out of season here, and apples are much easier to come by, so apple pie it was.
This was my first real attempt at baking in Switzerland, and it felt good to be back in the kitchen, covered in flour with the intoxicating smell of apples and cinnamon heavy in the air. It was an afternoon of utter normalcy after months of big changes, uncertainty, and bureaucratic problem-solving. Our lives might still be very much uprooted, but at least we could celebrate with a taste of home for Trav’s first birthday in Switzerland.
Sadly, the pie turned out – ok. Not great, but ok.
We’d already discovered that our oven here runs on the cool side, which was then exacerbated by the layer of aluminum foil I used to line the bottom to catch dripping juices. It’s a beast to clean.
Most of our ovens we had in the US were self cleaning and had a large raised heating coil that rested on the bottom of the oven. This meant the foil I laid underneath those coils didn’t block the heat.
The ovens in Switzerland – at least the ones I’ve seen – don’t have a raised heating coil. The heating unit is beneath the floor of the oven. This meant that my foil blocked the heat and the underside of my pie cooked slower than the top. I always wrap the edges to prevent burning, but this time I also had to cover the top to allow the bottom more time to cook.
Instead of an hour, the darned thing took almost 2 hours to cook. When I finally pulled it, many of the juices that had seeped down under the bottom of the crust were blackened. It didn’t taste burnt, but it wasn’t pretty, folks.
As always, Trav didn’t complain. Since he ended up not going in to the lab on his birthday, he took the pie in to share with co-workers the following day.
Bless their hearts for eating it.
Besides the pie-making event, we spent the better part of Trav’s birthday in Geneva.
Ironically, we ended up going to test drive a Honda SUV. Still on the hunt for an affordable used car that can haul kayaks and camping gear for long road trips in Europe, we had pretty much given up hope of finding a Toyota. Pickups aren’t common, Toyota 4Runners are non-existent, and we were struggling to find a vehicle that would meet our few requirements. The Honda CRV looked promising.
Unfortunately when we arrived, we realized it had some rather concerning front-end damage that the garage owner couldn’t really explain. It looked like it had been in a not-so-minor accident and they’d done a poor job of cobbling it back together just to unload it.
It did drive like a dream, but with all the fancy electronic gadgets and leather interior, it was far nicer than we needed. It had a price tag to match too. Oof. At nearly $10,000, we got the distinct impression the owner was trying to pass off a car that looked nice but had a questionable history. We decided to keep shopping.
It was so much fun to actually be able to toodle around Geneva for the day though! After we dropped off the Honda, we wandered along the waterfront, stopping for burgers at a street vendor and watching the city come alive along the shoreline as it got dark. When we were ready to head home, we hopped a train for the 45-minute journey home to Fribourg. It wasn’t the most exciting first birthday in Switzerland that we could’ve imagined, but we had a fun day.
The night after Trav’s birthday, we had dinner with friends in Fribourg.
The hostess remembered his birthday with two pink candles in her beautiful lemon meringue pie!
Buying a car in Switzerland?
These other articles about our experiences here might be useful.