Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Legend of Dumbass and the City of Bern (Or, Our First Weekend Excursion)

In the Middle Ages there was a faire and handsome prince named Dumbass. Back then, Dumbass was a princely name, like the modern day Jonathan, Simon, Nathaniel or any other good and strong-sounding name.

Dumbass was preparing a croissant at his favorite restaurant at the Hotel National in the Old City, a beautiful burg surrounded on three sides by the river Aare. The year was 1405.

Unfortunately, Prince Dumbass failed to take heed of a relatively big-ass sign, but not big enough, apparently, that read: “Toast only, no croissants.” It also showed a picture of a flaming croissant, which Dumbass took to be a flaming hot dog, which he thought strange but since it was breakfast and no hot dogs were in sight, his brain decided it did not concern him.

Handsome and hungry Prince Dumbass proceeded to send his delicious buttery flaked croissant through the moving grill of the toaster. But alas, the plump croissant was much too high for the machine. The croissant promptly caught against the heating coils and burst into flame, igniting the toaster, burning down the restaurant, and setting fire to the entire city which, because of the wide use of wooden timber, burned to the ground.

The city was quickly rebuilt with beautiful and burn-proof gray-green sandstone quarried from the nearby hills. And the city was renamed Burn, or in Swiss, Bern. And because the name Dumbass took a particularly negative meaning after this incident, the Prince changed it to the princely-sounding Ken.

Such is the legend of the origin of the somewhat uncomplimentary meaning of Dumbass and the name of the city of Bern.

The Ketchup Udder

Where has this been my whole life?

Ketchupping the french fries has never been more fun.

New and Disgusting

I had never conceived of something called back aroma, but now that I have been made aware I must live in a world with it.

Is this product a treatment for this absolutely disgusting-sounding malady? Or is it merely the opportunity to take a neutral-smelling part of human anatomy and introduce scents to it?

But who can smell their own backs? And why would someone want their partner (who else will have the opportunity to go back-smelling?) to experience an orange, rum or lemon-scented spinal curvature?

Is back-smelling a fetish?

Please help me clear this up.

Smell your back immediately, and then apply scent generously.

Chocolate Pick-Up Day

Every boy and girl in Switzerland is issued an allotment of chocolate once a week. In the photo, we are at the distribution center picking up ours for the week. Shown is half of our chocolate.

The boys help each other with their weekly chocolate allotment from the Swiss government.

Calling All Cool People

Finally, a place in Switzerland for me.

Are you hip enough?

The Meaning of Meat

Food is often on our minds. Getting to a new place, you need to establish routes for hunting and gathering. It’s an imperative for survival that we often take for granted at home (we were on the Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Shaw’s circuit in Brookline).

We had been told repeatedly to go to Germany for meat. Because in Switzerland, meat is really, really expensive. Something about the cost of happy chickens and relaxed cows. Germany is more focused on maximum fleisch for the dollar, and makes no bones about it. So we headed across the border and reveled in a meat extravaganza.

It’s not only price that is different (about 60 percent cheaper), but variety and display which may reveal much about the cultural differences between the Germans and the Swiss. In Germany, it’s an in-your-face celebration of meat. The porn equivalent would be the money shot, over and over again. In Switzerland, it’s a neat, carefully selected, vacuum-packed display of reasonably-apportioned product.

We eagerly await the delivery of our Weber grill.

Meat as a Cultural Signifier: Germany vs. Switzerland:

Salt + Heart = Delicious


The tagline says it all... yum!


There is a love affair with salted potato-extruded snacks here. “Snacketto: Hearts lovely salted” cuts right to the chase. Thinking about it makes my heart beat a little quicker even as it layers and squeezes the very organ with a tasty sodium chloride blanket of death.

My New Swiss Diet

In the summer leading up to our move, I went on a self-improvement kick. Instead of assuaging a midlife crisis with a red convertible, I decided instead to invest in my body, buffing the exterior, boosting the engine and getting everything in brilliant working order to ensure a long, happy and productive life.

So I saw my internist for a full physical, even taking her advice and getting a colonoscopy (my grandfather had colon cancer in his 40s) and endoscopy (to check on the acid reflux), went to a top neurologist and headache specialist to get control of migraines, saw a personal trainer to build my core and went to a regenerative medicine specialist to evaluate my biochemical indicators and pursue a customized, scientifically cutting-edge amino acid, drug and diet answer to my imbalances and sensitivities. By the time I left Boston, I was a relatively clean machine.

I was feeling better that I had in many years, a combination of benefits from the core-building exercise regimen, the medicine to prevent headaches, and the customized amino acid/minerals/vitamins decreasing the overall aches and pains and low energy I had been experiencing periodically since entering my 40’s. But the biggest impact seemed to be from the new diet — I avoided foods that showed some immune response when I was tested. With no dairy, no wheat and no some-very-specific foods (plums?!), I felt less groggy, had fewer headaches and a lot more energy. When I tried to re-introduce those foods, I felt crappy all over again.

Which brings me to my Swiss breakfast diet, which technically adheres to my food regimen, though I suspect it is an affront to all that my regenerative medicine doctor has tried to teach me:

* One pack Snacketti Dancer Cream — think Funyuns but in the shape of dancing Keith Haring figures

* Half-a-pack of Jumpy’s Kartoffel-Snackmit Paprika-Geschmack — some sort of potato-based crunchy stamped out in little kangaroos with pouch babies

* Coca-Cola, with sugar (none of that gunk-up-your-engines corn syrup so popular with fat Americans)

* Laderach dark chocolate — the best chocolate I have tasted in a land of chocolate so far

I wish I could say this breakfast is the surprising magic bullet that starts my day with aplomb, hope, energy and happiness and creates a slow and joyful burn all day that sustains and pleasures. But hey, it’s really all sugar and Funyun derivative. So basically my stomach is swollen like I swallowed highly seasoned packing peanuts and my brain buzzes with that mosquito noise of table sugar. But bloat and neuronal reverb is a small price to pay for a few minutes of gustatory pleasure and the illusion of supreme health a la My New Swiss Diet.

And look for My New Swiss Diet book soon-to-be bestseller in your favorite mortar and online book store. That’s the English-language title. If you’re in Europe, look for it under the German-translation:Why American Men in Switzerland Lurch Down the Street Fat and Disheveled with Paprika Breath.

Not to (B)eat a Dead Horse, But…

We went into Germany to buy meat. You cross a very porous border, a toll booth with two police, and you drive right through. The language doesn’t change, the architecture is no different, the people look the same. On the way back, you either drive straight through, or, if you spend over a certain amount, you get your receipt stamped so that you get tax money back the next time you come into Germany to buy groceries.

We bought a few small packages of turkey, well under the meat limit. But as a reminder to anyone seeking to smuggle meat beyond the allowance, here is the printed information in our Welcome to Basel booklet:

“Meat and edible offal of cow, calf, pig, sheep, goat, horse, ass, mule or hinny, fresh, chilled, or frozen: 0.5 kg in total per person per day.”

So yes, you can get a nice piece of ass in Germany, just make sure it is properly apportioned. And bring in all the inedible offal you want: One man’s inedible offal is another’s delectable barbecue, I am guessing. No, I don’t know what hinny is, but I will gladly buy a nice piece if anyone visiting makes the request and agrees to eat it.