The Joy of Raclette
- January 23, 2012 |
- by Lisa Reichenbach
It’s like a double decker bus – that you can cook on. Yes, I’m talking about a Raclette grill. I gave one to my husband, Stefan, for Christmas, and due to various logistical reasons (including not wanting to lug it all the way to Berlin, where we spent Christmas), he only opened it this past Saturday night. He introduced me to Raclette years ago, and is a bit of a devotee himself, so I thought he’d be pleased when he saw the gift. He was, but the children, who knew nothing of this thing called “Raclette” were indifferent, preferring instead to focus on popping the bubble wrap it came in.
But that indifference melted away (like a slice of yummy cheese) as soon as they started to see the principle of Raclette. All the typical stuff of dinner – in this case vegetables and potatoes – but topped by bubbling melted cheese! And they could choose just to which degree they wanted to melt their cheese…bubbly, sticky or almost crispy. Mira was so overcome, she threw her hands up in the air and yelled, “Yummy Raclette!” and then proceeded to faux fall off her chair and on to the floor.
Now, in terms of ingredients, this was a pretty humble dinner. We had the Raclette cheese, of course, but we ate it only with boiled potatoes and grilled zucchini and orange peppers. And yet somehow it was incredibly delicious and fun. I loved the food, but honestly, a lot of my fun came from how much Mira was enjoying it. Not only was she in ecstasies from the food in front of her, the approach to cooking food and “topping” it with something sparked some incredible latent creativity in her. After dinner, she lay right down on the kitchen floor and started creating a list of all the things she’d like us to try cooking. Here are a few of her ideas: fry eggs and peppers, and melt Monterey overtop; grill shrimp and top with melted butter seasoned with chili and lime; make crepes and top with melted chocolate, whipped cream and raspberries; grill bananas and top with melted chocolate and rum (OK, the rum was my idea). Not bad for a seven year old!
As a parent, it was fascinating to see how much more engaged the children were in dinner when they got to participate in cooking it themselves. They often help in the kitchen, so it wasn’t just the power of lending a hand, I think it was the fact that we were all in it together, and we could all share and discuss our micro-choices and approaches like how gooey or toasty we wanted our cheese, or whether the cheese went better with potatoes or zucchini. The Raclette gave us a central focus, and literally gathered us towards its warmth and fragrance. We all loved being a part of it, and I think that intense inclusion – expressed in delicious food, of course – is what Mira is trying to replicate with her flurry of creative recipes.
We also found it conducive to telling stories. Of course, I had to tell the children how I’d never heard of Raclette before I met their father, but also how we used to joke that, if professional demands ever got too much for us, we thought we’d just go off to some college town somewhere and open a Raclette restaurant. What could be nicer than that? Mira, entranced, pressed her recipe ideas into my hands. “Here you go, Mama,” she said, “Recipes if you ever do it.”
Food, togetherness, stories, creativity, dreams: I think we might be eating a lot of Raclette this winter.
Lisa Reichenbach (née Meekison) is an anthropologist, writer and consultant. She has a PhD in anthropology from Oxford University and has worked extensively in healthcare, studying first-hand the ways in which culture shapes our experiences of health and illness. She has published fiction and non-fiction internationally, and is currently conducting research for a book that explores how cultural factors influence happiness and well-being.