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.
Welcome to our family’s discussion forum on food. If you’d like to submit a post, please consider yourself family, and email us at familyfoodforum@gmail.com.

    After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

– Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance


Letter from Bern 1: The market

Susan Jessup

Blog LfB1 beans

It’s 11:30 on Tuesday morning. I am meeting Summer at the neighbourhood Migros (grocery store) across from the farmers’ market for 11:45, and I am supposed to have the marketing done. The market closes at noon and, in Switzerland, that means 12:00 Blog LfB1 Market viewsharp. I’m late leaving because I’m drinking enough coffee to neutralize the jet lag, maybe, and I’m fidgeting about with her balcony garden. Her garden is in pots, providing flowers, a variety of fresh herbs, chives, green garlic and, very soon, tiny heirloom tomatoes. It’s the little garden that I call The Bees’ Garden, which supports the critically-important bees. It’s also on the right side in the David and Goliath battle of tiny harmless wasps versus the ash borer beetle.

Blog LfB1 celerySummer and I do the marketing together, filling her shopping bags with helda beans (aka flat beans), broad beans, summer squash, eggplant, meaty heirloom tomatoes, sweet peppers, new potatoes, a melon, leeks, greens, and free-range eggs. I’m feeling the unique kind of joy that comes with holding a wealth of farm-fresh produce. I can hear the creative gears in my head picking up the pace as Blog LfB1 fruitwe hit the Migros for a few routine grocery items. We grab and go. She’s heading back to the office and I’m back to the lab for the relentless culinary experimenting.

Summer is craving ratatouille, and so the eggplant, squash, peppers, onion and garlic will be cleaned, cut and roasted with some cold-pressed olive oil and sea salt. The beans are calling to me, and those will be sautéed in olive oil with thyme, oregano, and lemon peel julienne, and then finished with a splash of Martini Bianco. Below are the methods for preparing the ratatouille (referred to with affection as “the rat” by the Chez Eric crew) and the green beans.

The Rat


  • Equal parts eggplant, summer squash (there are several varieties) and sweet peppers
  • Onion and garlic according to preference
  • 2 to 6 large meaty tomatoes such as field, beefsteak, coeur de boeuf (according to the amount of other vegetable)
  • Fresh thyme, oregano or marjoram (or all)
  • Basil leaves or smoked paprika for the finish (optional)
  • Enough olive oil to anoint the vegetables before cooking, reserving a few drops or so at the end to finish
  • Half a glass or so of red wine (or a little splash of red wine vinegar)
  • Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper


  1. Set your oven to 375 F.
  2. Roast pieces of eggplant and squash together until tender and caramelized (separate the two on the cooking tray, because your eggplant may need to be taken out before the squash).
  3. Roast a whole head of garlic and coarsely chop onions. The onions, peppers and garlic typically take about the same amount of time.
  4. While the vegetables are roasting, sauté the tomato pieces in olive oil until tender.
  5. Add the fresh herbs, roasted garlic, wine or vinegar to sautéed tomatoes.
  6. Season with salt, pepper and the optional smoked paprika.
  7. Remove from the heat and pour into a large mixing bowl.
  8. Toss in the roasted vegetables and finish with a little olive oil.
  9. Adjust the seasoning, add the basil leaves and serve.

blog LfB1 market to home

The Beans


*Use beans you like that are available.

  1. I used 1.5 litres of helda beans and 3/4 of a litre of broad beans
  2. Leeks (according to preference)
  3. Lemon peel (use the peel from 1 lemon per 1.5 litres of beans
  4. Fresh thyme and sage
  5. Olive oil
  6. A splash of Martini Bianco
  7. Sea salt and pepper


  1. Starting at medium heat, sauté the beans in olive oil, with a sprinkle of salt, using a large sauté pan or braising pot (start with the tougher bean if you use more than one variety).
  2. Add the lemon peel, herbs and Martini Bianco.
  3. Reduce heat to low and cover; this allows the beans to steam until they have almost reached the desired tenderness.
  4. Add the julienne of leeks and leave the pan uncovered.
  5. Turn heat to medium-high and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes.
  6. Serve.

Blog LfB1 lettuce

Cook’s note

I also roasted new potatoes and cooked du puy lentils with leeks, thyme and a little beer that we didn’t find so appealing in the glass. The beer was greatly improved with the addition of the other ingredients.

And after all that….A farm- and garden-to-table feast at dinner, with options for the rest of the week.


Susan is a culinary arts instructor, Cordon Bleu- trained chef, and back-to-the-dirt food activist in the Ottawa/Outaouais region, currently on a short sabbatical in Switzerland, where she is following another of her passions, painting.
Welcome to our family’s discussion forum on food. If you’d like to submit a post, please consider yourself family, and email us at familyfoodforum@gmail.com.

    After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

– Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance