Relaxing the Rules

Dearest Rachel –

This is the fourth in our serious on life – specifically, eating – in quarantine.

So for today’s story about the things I’m eating, I have to issue a confession. I assumed that, under the American breakfast, I was only allowed to choose one of each category. You know, one of beverages, one of milk, one of chocolate, one of tea, one of fruit juices, one of entrées, one of yogurts and grains, that sort of thing.

I think I may have been an idiot.

So, last night (since I have to decide before 2 a.m. – which is really difficult for me, as I don’t always know what I want to eat fifteen minutes before I intend to, let alone a whole night before. All three of us have always been like that, in fact), I decided to prove to myself I that could ask for anything I wanted, and not have to worry about specific quantities in specific categories.

From my earlier admonition to keep to a schedule, I haven’t quite latched on to a time to either wake or eat. I started out at nine o’clock, and nearly slept through that twice, at which point, I changed it to nine-thirty, and then finally this morning, to ten. Even then, it was a near thing, where’s my iPhone informed me that I was waking up with barely fifteen minutes left before that knock on the door. Still, I think I found my niche, unless a day comes (like Tuesday) when I would prefer lunch and dinner, rather than breakfast and dinner.

Because, to be honest, there isn’t much variety to the breakfast offerings. Yes, there’s that great big list, but it’s basically either Continental or American. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good, but once you’ve had both, what’s more to comment on?

Well, how about the fact that the staff seems less and less afraid of me day after day? I told you early on about how everything arrived sitting on the floor when I would answer the knock, and nobody would be around. Yesterday, things started to arrive on the more traditional rolling table, with a staff member behind the table, “Enjoy your meal, sir.” I even had to sign for it at one point.

Quick aside about that; not that it matters to you (or to a certain extent, to myself), but I’ve contacted the folks in charge of my travel insurance. It seems I’m covered up to 150% of my trip. That should cover not only the last cruise and the airfare home, But also my stay here and the various meals here as well. The nice thing is, I expect those three things to exist in only three separate bills/receipts, making filing the paperwork a fairly straightforward thing once I get home.

Back to the fearless employees. This morning, the young lady that delivered my breakfast took the trouble to bring in the tray and set it down on the table in the corner herself, much to my surprise, and I simply had to comment upon it. It turns out that she was not informed that I was in quarantine; like most hotel staff, I guess, she doesn’t work here every day, so she wasn’t up-to-date on certain guests like myself. I think that’s more on the hotel that on me, but still, that explains a thing or two.

Anyway, on to breakfast:

Yep, that seals it; I have been an idiot until now. I could literally check every single box on that card if I wanted to, and have it delivered to me for the same CHF 27 (which is about US$30 – the franc is very near parity with the euro, it would seem – not counting the CHF 5 room service charge on every delivery – but again, this is all going on a total hotel bill to be submitted for insurance later), but I was holding back all this time. Yet another lesson learned.

About the food itself, there’s not that much to comment on. I’ll admit to not being a fan of the fried egg, but I think you would’ve appreciated the runniness of a sunny-side up more than I would. It was very well presented, as always; it’s just not to my liking. The Roesti potatoes were good for mopping up afterwards, and I’ve said my piece on the bacon already.

The one other thing worthy of comment at this point might be the ‘sausage and ham’ I’d requested. Sliced ham makes sense, but I had been expecting sausage links rather than cold cuts. They’re all very well and good, don’t get me wrong, but there are always things you don’t quite expect. Probably among those things that get lost in translation. I think I remember that the Migros supermarket had an ‘American’ section – since i’m not here to eat American food (I can do that at home), I passed over it without looking. I have since come to the understanding that I might have found that section quite amusing as to how much even Europeans get wrong about us, and what we eat and enjoy.

Now as for tonight’s dinner…

No, this isn’t a repeat from a previous evening. I know what it looks like, but this time, that sausage is made of venison, and not veal. It definitely has a different texture, not quite as fork-tender as the veal, nor as mild. On the other hand, it’s not as gamey or as rich in flavor as in the ragout. In all honesty, this comes in second on both counts: for bratwurst, I would choose the veal, and for a venison dish, I would go with the ragout. But hey, you never know until you try.

As for the dish on the left, that’s actually supposed to be an appetizer, since I was getting bored with the side dishes that needed to soak up the sauce or gravy to have much flavor to them. What it really is, is yet another challenge to the boys at Man Camp: Black Angus Beef Tatar.

Legend has it that the Tatars – a nomadic group of raiders descended from Genghis Khan (but who in that part of Asia isn’t?) – Would put bags of ground meat under their saddle, and as they rode upon it, they would end up tenderizing the meat, so they could just reach under themselves, and eat without ever bothering to stop riding. Granted, they didn’t bother with the niceties of Parmesan shavings, onion slices and olive oil but hey… civilization!

That’s right, boys. This stuff is rare. Beef sushi, if you will – complete with a clever presentation of tomato chunks and radish slices. So, here goes nothing.

I’ll be honest, I am hesitant enough at this about this to start by eating the tomatoes. I know, you’re shocked; I just don’t do tomatoes. But you’re not here to eat them, and I feel bad wasting them so… And they’re not bad. They’re not dripping with juice, or that much flavor at all, to be honest. They’re inoffensive, is what I’m saying. And I’m fine with that. Similarly, the radish slices seem to be atop tiny dollops of a strange sweet green sauce. The menu refers to ‘Tasmanian pepper caper apples’ – I have no idea. It’s an interesting duel in my mouth, between the sharp and the sweet. It’s not something I would go for deliberately, but it’s not terrible.

On to the piece de resistance: the beef itself. I confess to being a little leery of this; I would like rare (or at least, medium-rare) beef, but it has a history of not liking me very much. This is going to crank that up to eleven.

I… am at a loss for words to describe this. Beneath the pile of cheese shavings, onions and sprouts is a three-ounce (okay, 70g) patty of meat that would be perfectly at home on someone’s grill, but has no idea where the grill is. It’s spiced, and has a flavor somewhere between roast beef and mild salami, with a mouthfeel like… nothing I could compare it to. It’s ground beef, finely ground beef, but to just put it that way does it a disservice somehow. It’s very tasty, with or without the garnishes on your fork – heck, it even tastes good with a little bit of the onion gravy from the sausage. But I think it stands the best on its own. Amazing stuff.

I suppose it has to be primo beef in order to be this good. My word.

I know this isn’t something that you would’ve braved; beef was never a thing for you, or for Daniel. I certainly wouldn’t insist he try this. Besides, if he did like it, that would just mean less for me.

Anyway, I may not be in a hurry to finish this, as it served at room temperature, but I think I’m going to get back to it, and I will talk to you later.

Take care honey. I love you, and I miss you, and I wish you could be here.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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