In June of 1999, I attended a wedding. Aside from my traveling companion, the only person I knew among the 50 participants was the groom. His bride-to-be wanted to have the marriage ceremony at her ancestral family home, so all the guests had to travel there if they wanted to attend. Normally, this is a fairly common occurrence, unless, as it was for this particular wedding, the location is half way around the world in a remote valley in Switzerland. But, hey – any excuse for travel and a three-day party, right?
The final destination for the wedding party was Val Fex, in the Engadine region of Switzerland, near the Italian border. The last town before entering the valley proper is Sils Maria. Beyond that, there are no cars allowed. You either walk or find local transportation. We had flown into Paris and driven across France, into Switzerland, so we had to park the car in Sils Maria and wait for someone from the guest house to come retrieve us and our luggage.
There were (at the time) three lodgings in Val Fex. At the lower end of the valley, there was the 5-star fancy hotel. That’s where the wedding party stayed and where the wedding dinner was held. It was delicious as I recall, but the standout was a White Tomato Soup with Basil Oil. (If anyone has the recipe for that, I’d be forever in your debt!)
About halfway up the valley, there was a pleasant inn, not fancy, not rustic, but sort of an ordinary lodging.
Finally, at the farthest end of the valley, was a rustic lodge. That’s where we stayed. So, we got lots of exercise walking up and down the valley to the various events. If you wanted to hike, all you had to do was step out the door.
The church where the actual ceremony was held was sort of in the middle of the valley. It was old and full of history, with original frescoes decorating the walls. The bride’s family had been using it for many generations. I have an unforgettable memory of the wedding day itself. At our lodging at the top of the valley, we dressed for the occasion, then proceeded to walk down the valley to the middle inn, where we picked up the groom and his brothers. Our group kept growing as we walked to the small church, and the local residents and local cows were enjoying the sight. The bride and her family were staying at the 5-star hotel, and they arrived at the church in horse drawn carriages. When the ceremony was over, the bride and groom left the church in the carriage, and the remaining guests walked down to the large hotel to begin the festivities.
During free times, we explored the area. One day we went to the town of Soglio, right on the Italian border. It was raining that day, but we still had a wonderful time. We visited a local museum, had tea in a small café, and walked through the narrow streets until we found a busy restaurant serving lunch. The museum had many interesting displays, including geologic maps of the area and sculptures by the Swiss artist, Alberto Giacometti. It was the first time I had heard of the artist, Giacometti, but since then I’ve seen his work in many places.
While this is sort of a round-about way to celebrate Swiss National Day on August 1, I wanted to share one of my travel experiences in Switzerland to help Zorra feel less homesick, although it might just aggravate her condition!
Although a bit out of season, my entry for this event is a Swiss holiday cookie, Zimtsterne. There appear to be several versions of this cookie, but all are very tasty, and since I had some finely chopped hazelnuts remaining from a recent project, it was a perfect recipe for me.
So, happy Swiss National Day to you, Zorra. Maybe if you have a cookie, you will feel better!
3 tablespoons butter
1 ½ cups sugar
2 whole large eggs
1 large egg, separated
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup finely chopped nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds)
Heat oven to 375F.
In a mixer, blend butter, sugar, the 2 whole eggs, the 1 egg yolk, and lemon juice until light and fluffy. Stir dry ingredients together; add to butter-sugar mixture. Stir in nuts. Roll the dough, one third amount at a time, to 1/16” thick on a lightly floured board. Cut with a star cookie cutter. Brush the tops with the remaining egg white, beaten until frothy. Bake on a lightly greased baking sheet about 6 to 8 minutes.
Makes at least 4 dozen cookies, depending on the size of the cookie cutter.