As I’ve been shaping what I’d like to explore through this blog, I fondly remember my time in Switzerland a few years ago. Not only is it one of the most mesmerizing places I’ve ever been, with postcard-ready vistas around every corner, I remember everything being so fresh–the fruits and vegetables, the air, mountains and the drinking water. Even just seeing all the shades of green fields upon descending into Zurich made me feel healthy.
I was there for a photo shoot and the client wanted to capture the authentic Swiss beauty, so we ventured to different local farms and yellow mustard fields that may otherwise have been overlooked for the stereotypical Swiss Alps shots. Three quarters of Swiss farmland is made up of meadows and pasture, so we had a lot of options. Traveling with a local crew, we scouted every field between Zurich to Lucerne and visited many farms. Our base was in Zurich so I got a good feel for both the city and country life.
What stood out to me the most was the innate respect for nature and tradition, which came through in the vegetable gardens, fresh produce, simple dishes, traditional farming techniques and the sheer amount of animals roaming around, everywhere we looked. One of our shots was at a famous golf course, and even there, they had a honeybee house and a small farm on-site! Another day while shooting in these rolling hills (literally), we turned around and there were three women horseback riding on the country road! Just another normal day in Switzerland. With a minimum of four weeks per year of vacation plus holidays, the Swiss have it pretty good. They also eat an average of 24 pounds of chocolate a year. Maybe that’s the secret to good health? Perhaps it isn’t about deprivation after all, but instead eating fresh fruits, vegetables and grains, with lots of chocolate thrown in?
Switzerland may be known for her cheese fondues and chocolate, which I had plenty of, but my favorite meals were their fresh vegetables. Often requiring very little seasoning, everything tasted the way it should: the natural sweetness from the carrots and turnips, the most tender white asparagus you’ll ever have and some of the best roasted fennel. Simple ingredients with huge flavor! This seemed to be the norm everywhere we went.
Michael Pollan, perhaps one of the most influential food authors on how Americans approach food, says,
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Food meaning real food, stuff your great-grandmother (or someone’s great-grandmother) would recognize, not the processed stuff filling most U.S. supermarkets, with long ingredient lists of unrecognizable chemicals. Is it any coincidence that the increase in the amounts of processed foods and meats, refined grains and added sugars we consume have correlated with increases in obesity, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and cancer here in America? We are what we eat. Food should create energy and vitality if we’re eating the right things, not make us sick. Pollan also says in his book, Food Rules, “Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of your milk” (Rule 36). Our Swiss breakfasts only consisted of natural colors–fresh berries, breads, cheeses, tasty yoghurts, hard-boiled eggs, muesli, fresh jams and an assortment of juices.
Switzerland was a huge inspiration and starting point for me to start thinking about health, nutrition and whole living. With a diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, chocolate and bread, clean mountain air and awe-inspiring mountains, I was eager to bring the Swiss lifestyle back to my beautiful New York City. In part two, I’ll give you some tips on how I did it!