Y’all ever heard of Paula Deen?

June 24, 2013

Have you ever heard of Paula Deen?


Until last week, I hadn’t either.  Paula Deen is an American chef from Savannah, Georgia.  She is the Jamie Oliver, the Nigella Lawson, the Julia Child of Southern cooking.  Apparently she is a household name in the US.  Recently, she has created a furore in the news because she once used the n-word to a staff member and, as a result, her contract with the Food Network has now been terminated.

DownloadedFile-12After reading about her in the news, I googled her and then watched some of her cooking videos on her website.  You can watch the more professional ones on the Food Network.

Paula Deen’s cooking videos mesmerized me for ages.  They are pure escapism.  Her videos are food porn –  I found watching them quite titillating.

Paula Deen makes dishes such as deep fried turkey, cheeseburger casserole, donut burgers and deep-fried cheesecake.  I would never in a million years cook anything Paula Deen makes but she is a hoot and I so enjoyed watching her cook.

At first I wondered if Americans really eat such fattening rubbish but they must do, given that most of the population is roly-poly.

I have visited America a few times and food has always been the highlight of my trips.  My body can never keep up.  I spend most holidays in the US feeling as if I am incubating an immense food-baby.  I always love going to the grocery store when I am there and the colour, variety and endless choice of obscure, artificial foods gives me sensory overload.  I pick things up and say, ‘I can’t believe people eat this’ and ‘will someone really buy that?’  The last time I was in the US, I was so fascinated by all the fattening and synthetic food that I took these pictures:


I have a few American expat friends and, while they are not nearly as bad as Paula Deen, they have some unique recipes and eating habits.  One of my friends said that whenever she feels homesick, she buys Kraft Mac and Cheese from the American store.  For her, that is quintessentially American.  I was horrified.

Picture 13Kraft Mac and Cheese is basically like eating chemicals.  The ingredients are all sorts of oxides and phates and acids.  In fact, some of the ingredients, such as Yellow 5 and Yellow 6, that are used in the American version have been banned in the European equivalent.  Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 are food colourants and I noticed Yellow 5 is the dye in my shampoo.

Out of all the Paula Deen videos I watched, these are my favourite.

This is Paula Deen’s spontaneous breakfast cook-up:

This one is Paula Deen making sweet potato balls or, as she would say, ‘sweet pitaida bawls y’all’:

Deep fried cheesecake.  After watching this one, I craved a stick of celery:

Deep-fried turkey, which my friends say is popular at Thanksgiving:

This one takes the cake.  It is Paula Deen’s Mac and Cheese and she makes it using cheddar cheese soup.  I can’t believe you can actually buy canned cheddar cheese soup.  DISGUSTING.

It will come as no surprise that, after all these years of eating deep-fried, butter-soaked food and ‘cheddar cheese soup’, Paula Deen now has Type-2 diabetes.  There is a lesson there, y’all.


Potato Salad

June 18, 2013

I have just made an amazing discovery and I must share it with you.

It was 36 degrees in Geneva today and I didn’t feel like a hot dinner.  I was in the mood for a light, cold salad.  That was a challenge because Alastair is not a fan of leafy, meatless dinners.  I knew he would be disappointed.

Alastair does not like tomato, avocado, mayonnaise, apple sauce, tomato sauce, peaches, nectarines, prunes, dried fruit, raspberries, blueberries, sprouts, salad dressing, gherkins, mustard, chutney, plums, jam, pickle, raisins, fruity desserts, peanut butter, balsamic vinegar and the list goes on.

When we are invited to a dinner party and the host asks what foods we don’t eat, I generally reply, ‘We eat everything’.  It is too complicated to explain Alastair’s food preferences. I don’t want to be a nuisance and sometimes I would like to be invited back.

DownloadedFile-3Steers fastfood joint in South Africa used to sell a burger called ‘The Saucy Burger’.  Alastair would order ‘One saucy burger without the sauce’.

I generally work around Alastair’s food aversions and I sensitively keep knives or spoons contaminated with tomato sauce or jam away from his food.  But, buying burgers for Alastair is a big problem.  The standard burger always comes with tomato, gherkin, tomato sauce or mayonnaise.  We can place my order easy peasy.  Alastair’s involves some concentration – ‘One cheeseburger.  No tomato.  No gherkins.  No mayonnaise.  No mustard ….’

Here in Switzerland, Alastair always delegates the task of ordering burgers to me because I speak better French than him.  It is stressful and exasperating because either I duff up and miss out an ingredient or the teenage waitress botches the order and leaves on something difficult to pick or scrape off completely, such as mustard.

At Gourmet Burger Kitchen in London, I discovered it was cheaper to create the burger out of the sides than order the burger itself. The cost of the individual items was cheaper than the burger on the menu.  So instead of saying, ‘One cheeseburger no this, no that’, I would create Alastair’s burger from scratch and start from the bottom up – ‘Please may I have one meat patty, one bun, one slice of cheese.’

DownloadedFile-10Tonight I felt like potato salad.  I can never make potato salad because it contains mayonnaise and that is a no go.

I found a recipe on the BBC GoodFood website that uses natural yoghurt in place of mayonnaise.  Do you know what?  IT WAS FABULOUS.  In fact, it was even better than mayonnaise.  The potato salad felt lighter and healthier and the best part was when Alastair said, ‘Julie you can make this potato salad again.’

So the moral of the story is: when you make potato salad, use natural yoghurt instead of mayonnaise.  It’s delish.

A few things I don’t like about Switzerland

June 9, 2013

I love Switzerland but I admit it is not perfect.  I have a friend who is based here but spends most of his time in deepest, darkest Africa.  I once commented that his trips between first-world Switzerland and third-word Africa must be like going from the sublime to the ridiculous.  He replied, ‘Yes.  But you know what?  Sometimes I wonder which place is sublime and which is ridiculous.’

Moving out of rented accommodation is a pain in the ass

images-45When you move out of rented accommodation in Switzerland, you must arrange a professional clean. You can clean it yourself, but most people don’t have the stamina or willpower to meet the Swiss expectations of spick and span.  An advantage of a professional clean is that if the agent wipes his finger over the top of the kitchen cabinets and picks up a dust particle, the cleaning company must rectify the matter, not you.

A friend is moving and said that the average quote to professionally clean her 3-bedroom apartment was about CHF1,000.  That is R11,000 or about £700.  We would love to buy a house and will hopefully move out of our rented flat in the near future.  I have asked a few people and they all agree that CHF1,000 is market-related.  The thought of paying so much makes me hyperventilate and froth at the mouth.  No no NO!  I will not, under any circumstances, cough up that kind of cash.  That’s almost an air ticket to South Africa!  I will clean the house myself.  I will clean it with my tongue if I have to.

I also discovered that if you move out of rented accommodation before the annual renewal date, you must find a tenant to take over the contract.  Let’s say you plan to move out in 9 month’s time, but it is before your contract expiry date, then you are still obliged to find a replacement tenant.  If you can’t find anyone, then you continue to pay the rent until the contract ends.

This system puts me off buying a house because we could never time it to coincide with the end of our lease.  It is impossible.  We would have to endure the unpredictability of finding a tenant and the possibility of paying both a mortgage and rent if we couldn’t find one in time.  The stress!  Oh my goodness, I am breaking into hives at the thought of it.

Bad drivers

images-24The Swiss drive as if they’ve just robbed a bank.  We live close to the French border, so it could be their influence.  The French are notoriously wild drivers.

Cars are pushy and aggressive and will not give you an inch.  Most people don’t stick to their lane and hover over both until they see an oncoming car.  It drives me nuts.

The other day I read an article reporting the fourth fatal car accident in Geneva this year.  It is now June which means only four people have died in car accidents in the first five months of 2013.  In Johannesburg, it is more like four a week.  I must remind myself that, even though the Swiss drive as if they are delivering donor organs, the roads are still safer than other places.


images-1In winter, the heat in Swiss buildings is similar to that inside a pottery kiln.  I often walk into a building and my glasses steam up.

The heating in our apartment block is set centrally and we have no control over it.  The temperature is fixed at 22 degrees, which means it is often hotter indoors in winter than it is in summer.

In January, an electrician came round to increase the heating because one of the residents complained she was too cold.  I caught him in the act of turning it up and told him to stop right there and don’t touch a thing, mister.  I said he should tell this girl that if she is cold, she should put on a jersey.

The Swiss think that cold air is some sort of deadly gas.  When I was working, we constantly argued over the window.  I liked it slightly ajar for some fresh air but my colleagues preferred to hot box themselves into the office until it had that fetid aroma of a becalmed submarine.

People are neutral

images-30When I lived in London, I felt like a fish in an aquarium.  It was aloof and anonymous.  People avoided contact and went about their business barely aware of each other’s existence.  In some ways, Switzerland is worse.

Switzerland is neutral and people have become so too.  People mind their own business, sit on the fence and don’t get involved.  (Well, that is not entirely true.  They are involved but indirectly and from afar.  They make sure you obey the rules and they don’t hesitate to complain or report you to higher authorities.)

If I need help, I always have to ask for it.  If I have to get up a flight of steps with the pram, no one jumps in to help or spontaneously volunteers.  People walk past and ignore me.  Recently we were in London and I was stunned by how gracious and helpful strangers were in train stations, airports and near all steps.

The other day I was at the doctor’s and a lady opened the door for me and my pram.  I said, ‘Merci!  Merci beaucoup!  You are so sweet!  That is so kind!’ and then I thought, ‘Why am I kissing this lady’s ass?  She just opened the door.  She didn’t give me her kidney.’  It was just such unusual behaviour, you see.

Undercover racism 

DownloadedFile-5We are friends with a multi-racial couple – he is black and she is white.  They described how it took them months to get an apartment in Switzerland.  One day the estate agent pulled the wife aside and said, ‘Your husband’s skin colour may be the problem.  Just a suggestion – maybe you should leave him at home the next time you go house-hunting.’

Mostly I find Switzerland sublime, but sometimes it is ridiculous.