Sunday, October 24, 2010


When I was in high school the whole darn place picked up and moved to St. Moritz for two weeks every January. It was one of the many perks of going to a Swiss boarding school. Ski lessons were included, but unfortunately for me, I arrived a day late the first year. When I went to pick up my equipment, the ski shop was out of boots my size, and so it was another day until I made it up to the slopes.

By that time there were no more beginners... everyone was at least two days ahead of me, and none of those efficient Swiss instructors in their mirrored shades and handsome red jackets seemed willing to catch me up. After careening unsupervised and uninstructed around the bunny slopes for a while, I resolved that skiing was not for me, and with fat tears rolling down my cold cheeks I removed those despicable skis and clunked over to the Signal Bahn where I caught the gondola back down to the hotel.

Despite the impression I had gotten on the mountain, I found out that skiing was not optional, and thus began my longest streak of scholastic disobedience to date. There was no way I was ever going to suffer the humiliation of that first day again, and so every morning when the rest of my classmates tromped cheerfully off for the slopes, I skulked away in the opposite direction and wandered the icy streets of St. Moritz for hours. It was lonely and cold, and even though I brought a book and a little money, there was only so much time I could spend in any cafe or restaurant before I felt my welcome was worn out, plus I lived in terror that a teacher would catch me and I would get in trouble for skipping.

The bright side of those days was literally the finest hot chocolate in the world and a delicious local soup with speck and barley called Engadiner Gestensuppe. Years later I found a recipe for it on the internet, and I continue to tweak it, trying to recreate what I remember so clearly, but so far each attempt falls a bit short. Even so, I often turn to this soup when I want something warm after a tough day, and it still hits the spot.

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