Do you remember the first time you tried a different food? Or a familiar food prepared and cooked in a different way? Today, Christmas Eve, 24th December, is the anniversary of the first time I tried rosti, a way of cooking potatoes that is traditional in Switzerland. Let me tell you about it.
Once upon a time there was a young man and a young woman who were very much in love. They were so much in love that they got married. Not long after the wedding they were living in a flat in a town in the south of England, a town that stood on the shores of the cold, grey English Channel. That town was called Hove - although many of the people who lived there called it Hove Actually. Hove (or even Hove Actually) had a neighbour, the bigger town of Brighton. Not only were Hove and Brighton neighbours, they actually butted up against each other so that many people didn't know where one town ended and the other began. Generally speaking, people knew when they were in Hove and when they were in Brighton, but there was a sort of grey area where people were unsure. That didn't really matter very much, except to the people who lived there and the postman and so on.
Not only was Brighton a bigger town than Hove, it was also much better known. People who had never heard of Hove had probably heard of Brighton. You see, Brighton had a reputation, a reputation for being a bit bawdy, for dirty weekends, for gang fights and for trunk murders. Oh yes, there were very few people in the country who had not heard of Brighton. But to many of those people who had heard of Brighton, Hove might as well have been a town in Norway or Yugoslavia. (In the days I am talking about, Yugoslavia was still a country.) So when a person who lived in Hove was asked, at a party, for instance, or by a stranger on a train if a stranger on a train ever got into conversation with a stranger who lived in Hove, which is unlikely... So when a person who lived in Hove was asked by somebody, "Where do you live?" the answer would almost always be, "Brighton". Then the resident of the ultra-respectable town called Hove would have a Horrible Thought. "Good heavens," the resident of the ultra-respectable town called Hove would think to himself, "that man might think I'm one of that sort! The sort of person who would live in Brighton!" whereupon he would correct his previous answer by saying, "Well, Hove actually". And that's how the ultra-respectable and downright dowdy and straight-laced town called Hove became known, if only to its residents, as Hove Actually.
You might be wondering what all that has to do with Christmas Eve, rosti and the young couple who were very much in love and the answer is, nothing at all but it helps to fill the blank screen. So, to get back to our young couple.
There was little money to spare in the early days of their marriage but they did decide to splash out on a Christmas Eve soon after they had married. The young man had enjoyed a meal at an office party held at a restaurant in Brighton - the Swiss Restaurant. It was called the Swiss Restaurant because it served Swiss-style food, including rosti, although the young man had not eaten rosti when his employer had paid for the meal. It was to the Swiss restaurant that our couple repaired on the long-ago Christmas Eve and it was that evening they both tried - and very much liked - rosti.
They so much enjoyed their Christmas Eve that year that the next year they went again to the Swiss Restaurant and it became a tradition that they ate there every Christmas Eve. Until, that is, the children started coming along. By the time the children were old enough to be left alone on Christmas Eve, the Swiss Restaurant had long been closed down. Our couple were older now (obviously) and didn't even think of going out for a meal on Christmas Eve. Indeed, we shall spend the evening quietly at home again this year after eating a meal cooked by the Old Bat. I wonder if she'll do rosti?
These red deer hinds were on the Downs last Monday. They seemed unperturbed when I raised the camera but watched me closely all the same.