I was famished at the Zurich train station, and I needed to eat. The first place that I saw was the convenience store – most probably a 7-eleven, can’t recall – and so I walked in.
I took the croissant in front of me, it was a little brown perhaps a little over-baked but what the heck…
…then I put it in my mouth.
It was either a badly made croissant or not a croissant at all. It wasn’t buttery and sweet, it was buttery but salty. I took a look at the sign again, it said Silserbutter Gipfel, so I did some googling back in the host room.
According to a forum, a Buttergipfel is a normal croissant made with maximum butter, I guess silse means salty. There’s many different kinds of croissants. Considering I come from region in the world where staple foods (rice) are mostly the same – just differing in quality, breads present a whole new world to me in the sheer variation and taste.
Now bread is made from wheat, which is a staple across the world. Wheat is the only staple food that can legitimately be said to be found on every continent. But how each group of people uses that raw ingredient and turns it into something loved by their people is different. Bread has been made for a really long time, since the discovery of agriculture and the one we eat today is obviously not the same as what was eaten by people a few centuries ago – not all the time that’s for sure.
Heck, even the bread that is eaten across the world today is so varied and differently flavourful. The pita used in Jewish dining are not the same as naan breads in north indian culture and are not the same as breads in Europe, or frankly the sliced white bread popularised by America.
Someone who knows breads should do a bread blog, documenting all sorts of breads in the world will probably take more than a few decades to even complete that task. The diversity of breads in Switzerland was a surprise to me. Somehow, I figured that since the Swiss were more well known for chocolate and cheese that’s what would be staring back at me from the windows all around.
In fact, it wasn’t chocolate or cheese variations that stared me in the face but bread, roles and pastries.
I didn’t even see many chocolate or cheese shops around Zurich, or maybe where I walked – the most touristic parts, breads and many different types of breads were however baked and sold from windows and shop fronts everywhere I went.
Breads had as prominent a place as how cakes were in Vilnius, and the smell of freshly baked bread was wonderfully aromatic.
But what makes Swiss breads different from other breads from the region? According to this site there is a way to identify Swiss breads, “Swiss bread is like the personality of the Swiss: Hard on the outside.” This small country of 8 million has almost 200 different varieties of bread including 22 different cantonal breads, unique to each canton.
22 Cantonal Breads (Source)
You got to agree, that’s pretty cool. The same blogger above also describes the cantonal breads of some cantons, describing Zurich bread as run of the mill.
I don’t know enough, I just saw a lot of breads.
So prominent and common that there is even a whole business concept that has emerged from it. I thought the concept from Äss-Bar (that’s literally the name, don’t laugh) was brilliant – the took bread from bakeries all over the city, that were baked but not sold the day before and then resold them the next day at a much lower price. Many of those were good sandwiches, wraps and the like that were still very fresh and good enough to be eaten. It’s just that in those bakeries, one day old bread is not fresh enough.
Good cheaper lunch for me though 😉
ON THE MAP