Letter from Bern 3: The collection

Susan Jessup

Here is collection of photos and thoughts from Bern. All the photos have a bit of a story relating to food. The menu items that I prepared at the time are italicized, as is the photo description. Just post a request for more details or a recipe.

IMGP6769The bee and the lavender: I was on Summer’s balcony having my breakfast of Swiss organic yogurt and spelt flakes, and was soothed by the steady hum of bees. And just so you know, in Switzerland organics are very close in cost, often the same cost, as non-organics. This country has many good things right about the food.

Portrait of a tomato (in process): A photo of one of the paintings for the show, an Italian tomato with a quirky shape that called to me. We were eating these tomatoes sliced thick, sprinkled with sea salt and sometimes drizzled with olive oil. That’s all.


The purple flowers that Summer really likes: You can see the little pot of parsley to theIMGP6803 right, and don’t you enjoy the taste and convenience of being able to have your own fresh herbs to season and garnish meals with! I took this shot late in the day at Summer’s insistence, after we lip-smacked our way through a dinner of Chicken braised with white wine, salted capers, olives and lemon peel. The required trough of a fresh local greens salad and some new little roasted potatoes accompanied the chicken. We washed it all down with a fine Colmar wine in the little green-stemmed glasses of Alsace. The sun began its evening dip as Summer exclaimed, “Look at the colour of those little flowers!”

IMGP6818Dinner with colleagues: Summer’s hand can be seen to the left as she pours the Cremant d’Alsace for the appero. This is how the Swiss refer to the starter course (quite sure that it’s misspelled). Right Summer? Three days previously, I had put a generous portion of Turkish yogurt in the little gizmo that Sharon gave Summer for the making of pressed yogurt. On the day, I tipped the pressed yogurt out onto a serving dish, garnishing it with herbs from Summer’s garden and a splash of chili oil. We had that on crackers with olives, pickled capers, tiny tomatoes and radish leaves from the balcony garden. Earlier in the week, I had purchased a hubbard squash from the farmer, roasting it for the Chick peas and squash cakes. Green beans with mustard and fresh sage completed the table with a stack of vibrant green. A salad of escarole, butter lettuce, sweet peppers, fennel and carrot ribbons after the starter, and then the Spelt crust pizza, which was the feature. You must petition Summer for that recipe. The finish was a Double chocolate mousse that kicked my ass in the making of it. But I won the match! The chocolate addicts were, of course, relieved.

The little cat on the roof: This one is for the cat people. She is a polite, shy little thing who spends much of her time outside, often on the roof right outside Summer’s kitchen window. I was preparing our noon meal using fridge treasures. This tree has other treasures that the cat finds particularly fascinating. I imagine she sources many of her meals from it. She graced me with a nice pose that shows off her colours and those of the leaves.IMGP6826


Farmhouse in the distance: I shot this one standing on the bench where I was having a IMGP6836picnic of boiled egg, cheese, rye crackers and tiny heirloom tomatoes. The sun was dipping and the green of the grass and the leaves is real. This green space and farm is just up the road from Summer’s place, and they appear to have bees. Quite likely some of those bees visit her garden. I really appreciate how living, working and farming space is woven together in Bern.

IMGP6888Children’s park and public gardens: I was on my way home from the river to put finishing touches on a dinner of Retro meatloaf, green beans and salad. I usually take the route through a nice park with adjoining gardens that glow with the setting sun.The play structures are made of chunky smoothed logs and pieces of wood to let kids to climb and explore in a closer-to-nature way.

Reflection in the creek: A photo taken when I was heading back to Summer’s place,IMGP6913 after one of my walks. This little creek runs parallel to and not far from the Aare River. It’s a favourite place for the local children to fish, walk slack line and just splash around and cool off. I often take the camera on these walks to the river. That day, I also had a little feast of local organic smoked trout, boiled egg, beets and a tiny Bern pilsner. All this enjoyed while cooling off under a generous tree, feet in the water, scribbling notes for my paintings. There were many swimmers and rafters that day, flashing past like fish on this fast-flowing green river.

Summer: We had quite a challenge matching music to photos for the slide show, which would be shown at the vernissage. Here she is, the reluctant subject hard at work as she waits for friends and salvation. They took her with them to a restaurant that serves Spanish cuisine. You will have to ask her for the details.


IMGP7029#8: The last canvas painted, and perhaps my favourite. I had trouble putting the palette knives down for this one. There is a point, in the early stages, when I’m supposed to walk away and come back to dry paint with new eyes. This image wanted out, and it kept talking to me, until it was.


At the vernissage, we served Swiss mountain cheese, 12-year-old emmental, gruyere, salted nuts, crackers, vegetable chips and Beluga lentil cakes with reduced orange red wine glaze and piped on lebneh. Summer did not want me to cook. I just had to cook one thing, and so I did. Thanks to Gerard and Summer we drank Amarone and a lovely crisp Italian white.

A big thank you to Summer for supporting the artist in residence for the past two months. She graciously tolerated my weirdness, anxieties and just being in her space, all the while making me laugh every day at the ridiculous in life. What could have been a difficult period of time was not at all. It was lovely and creative.

Good-bye Bern.

Postscript: I would like to go back in time, for my next series, and pass along the food with family adventures in Vancouver at the start of this summer. Justin plucked me out of Ottawa, as the weather burned and my work burned out. He flew me to Vancouver, with 3.5 hours notice. Yeeehaw! We had some amazing moments, which will include a Smoked salsa for halibut, harpooned by one of the dinner guests, Sous vide of pork tenderloin and a five course tasting menu for 7, a Secret Supper (shhhhh).


Susan is a culinary arts instructor, Cordon Bleu- trained chef, and back-to-the-dirt food activist in the Ottawa/Outaouais region who just returned home after a short sabbatical in Switzerland.
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    After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

– Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance