And â€“ if with any sauce at all â€“ only with tomato sauce from the jar. Which, disappointingly, tastes totally different today. Maybe because theyâ€™ve had to stop putting in offal like cowâ€™s eyes and other such delicacies. All this canâ€™t have been easy on my Mom, who is a fantastic cook. With stoic composure, she would serve me pasta. After all, the child had to eat something.
So thatâ€™s what I ate: Pasta. Sophia Loren is credited with saying: â€œEverything you see I owe to spaghetti,â€ probably referring to her curves. I could easily say the same, except â€“ aside from being decidedly non-curvy â€“ Iâ€™d be saying: â€œThanks to spaghetti, Iâ€™m still alive!â€ To be precise: Spaghetti from the Swiss brand â€œBschÃ¼ssig.â€ And all the other kinds of pasta manufactured by â€œBschÃ¼ssig.â€
This tiny bit of information has just clued in the perceptive Swiss reader to the fact that I grew up in the countryside, as the â€œBschÃ¼ssigâ€ brand is only available in rural mini-marts like Landi and Volg and other convenience stores. The even more perceptive reader will have gleaned some additional information: That I grew up in a traditional Swiss family. Because â€œBschÃ¼ssigâ€ pasta is egg-based pasta, and that is so wrong from an affected urban-nonconformist-dogmatic point of view. Which I immediately adopted as soon as I left home. Emancipating myself from my parentsâ€™ influence largely took place on a culinary plane, and I dived into the first Sushi eatery I could find: Back home, the idea of eating raw fish with plain rice would have filled everybody with disgust and alarm. In my new life, I had to learn about almost everything that comes from the sea that isnâ€™t breaded and rectangular-shaped. I felt liberated and a free spirit as I followed every new trendâ€¦until the moment I realized that vinegar essences/rocket salad/prawns/goat cheese/agretti had become the new mainstream. I also became a champion of hard durum pasta, and the two things Iâ€™ve strictly refused to let into my kitchen for at least 15 years are the classic Swiss condiments Maggi and Aromat.
Maggi and Aromat, brands that embody the sacred twins of rural barbarism. Pinnacles of bad taste to shake and drizzle on any dish. A surrogate for cooking talent: Glutamate shots to pep up uninspired, tasteless dishes. Never ever! Salt, pepper, some good olive oil, a dash of lemon juice, would do for me (of course, with time, plain salt wasnâ€™t good enough anymore, either; only Fleur de sel would do). Until one day at a friendâ€™s house I tasted the perfect salad dressing. A salad dressing that was so out-of-this-world it made my life complete. I immediately asked for the recipe and would like to share it with you here, because nobody should have to live another day without this magical dressing. This is how itâ€™s made: Mustard, Kressi vinegar and olive oil, salt, pepper, chopped flat parsley, and: MAGGI. Iâ€™ll be jiggered.
And so Maggi, a liquid condiment, re-entered my life. Old childhood memories began to resurface: Bread with Maggi. Pasta with Maggi. And together with Maggi, came Aromat, the classic Swiss seasoning. Pasta with butter and Aromat. Raw egg yolk with Aromat and bread. Mom. Dad. Falling off my bicycle. Being comforted after falling off. Mom playing the guitar. The smell of the cornfield out back. The sad toy donkey. Denise. Nadja. Enrica. Splashing about in the Egelsee lake. Chalk on the sidewalks. The secret tree. The rabbit skull in the copse. Dadâ€™s scent: Old Spice, cigarettes, and Stimorol chewing gum. How Jerry slobbered as he grew older. Badminton in the garden. The sound of lawn mowers on Saturday morning.
Never, ever will I allow some misdirected sense of style to banish Maggi or Aromat from my life again.
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Author and journalist MichÃ¨le Roten studied German language and literature, sociology and criminology. For ten years she wrote a weekly column in Â«Das MagazinÂ» (collected in Â«Miss UniversumÂ»). For her novel, Â«Wie Frau seinÂ» she was awarded the Ida Somazzi Prize. In 2013 a sort of sequel Â«Wie Mutter seinÂ» was published. Her first play, Â«Wir sind seligÂ» premiered in June 2015 and was, as were all her other works, published by Echtzeit Verlag.
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