Another gorgeous little town on Lake Geneva and the Swiss Riviera is Vevey – a place long on charm and history of every sort. For book worms, it will ring a bell for readers of Henry James (the setting of Daisy Miller) and Louisa May Alcott (it’s where young Laurie in “Little Women” was sent away to school.) For film buffs, it was home to Charlie Chaplin and his family after he left Hollywood. For wine connoisseurs, Vevey is capital of the Lavaux wine-growing region, with its unique terraced vineyards. And for chocolate lovers – well, Vevey is the birthplace of milk chocolate, and it remains a center for talented artisan chocolate makers. You must not miss a visit to the shop and café run by young chocolatier superstar, Blaise Poyet. Don’t let the cozy shop fool you, the man’s an adventurer. He’s been called a “globetrotter in the world of flavor.” Now, Dr. Oz isn’t a fan of milk chocolate (the health benefits are found in dark chocolate,) but as Oscar Wilde once said, “I can resist everything except temptation.”
So, back to something that would definitely win the Dr. Oz seal of approval; during the summer, Vevey hosts one of the most picturesque food markets you’ll ever find. Each Tuesday and Saturday, vendors come to the old city square and set up their stands. We wandered past gorgeous produce, beautiful cheeses, and other local delicacies. A visit to the Vevey market makes me reflect about how I shop for food, cook and eat in my regular life back home. I’m grateful for convenience but can’t help but think of food author Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules,” which he sums up in 7 little words: “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” That’s exactly what I see here at the Swiss market – food, not too much, mostly plants. It makes perfect sense and I love the idea – so why isn’t it the choice I immediately make when trying to decide what to eat? Our next stop to the Food Museum in Vevey provides some fascinating insights.
I’ve got to be honest – I wasn’t expecting much from the Alimentarium Food Museum, funded by the Nestle company. (Nestle was founded in Vevey in the 1860’s, and Vevey is still its international headquarters.) But by the time I left the museum, I had changed my tune. Hands-on, fun, and smart, it was created to highlight the alimentary process: cooking, eating, purchasing and digesting. The big fork in the lake that sits in front of the museum is your first clue this isn’t going to be boring. It’s almost as informative and enjoyable as The Dr Oz Show. Truly one of the best interactive museums I’ve ever visited – and in terms of food, I’ve never seen anything like it. You can figure out your BMI, take a 3D tour inside the digestive track, and compare a “balanced meal” in 6 different countries. (By the way, a typical dinner in Mali, Africa, looks a lot healthier than an American one.) Here’s just one fascinating food factoid I picked up. Q: What’s the #1 thing that determines the food choices you make at a meal? A: The people you’re eating with. It’s definitely true at my office – when Dr. Oz is around we eat a lot healthier than when he is not.
Tom and I ate lunch at the Food Museum, starting with a salad made with greens (and flowers!) grown in their own organic garden and I watched how Corinne, our Swiss tour guide, ate. She finished all the veggies, consumed half the portion of veal chop and turned down dessert. I asked this trim and fit mother of a college-aged daughter to describe her typical diet. She told me she preferred olive oil, ate a lot of vegetables and while she enjoyed dessert and wine, she had them sparingly. And while Corinne says ‘no thanks’ without a second thought to the yummy fruit tart in cream sauce at the museum, when we stroll through the food market, she’s positively ecstatic to discover a Southeast Asian couple selling jackfruit at their stand.
Jackfruit is a fruit from Thailand – it’s a big sweet yellow fruit covered with thick skin. Corinne had eaten it on a trip to Thailand and she immediately buys a big sack of the delicious papaya-looking fruit for about 5 dollars. I think of the many bins of exotic produce from the Caribbean and South America at my local supermarket and I decide to follow Corinne’s lead when I get home. I’m going to expand my own sense of adventurous eating to include some of these strange fruits and vegetables. Thanks to the internet – maybe I’ll even be able to figure out what to do with them!