Thursday, October 17, 2013

A loaf of banana bread in a sea of Zopf

The Frau is a loaf banana bread in a sea of Zopf.

Let her explain.

Baby M had a birthday. At her daycare, parents are encouraged to bring a loaf of Zopf (Swiss sweet bread) instead of cake. A recipe for Zopf (written in German) was given to all parents a few months ago.

As a working mother, however, The Frau has limited time to bake on a weeknight and thus no tolerance for a German recipe for something she’s never made before. Being the black sheep that she is, she assumed that something similar to Zopf, such as banana bread, would be an acceptable alternative.

So after work, in between making dinner and taking care of Baby M, she somehow managed to cook a loaf of banana bread.

The next morning, however, the daycare explained that cake was not acceptable even though The Frau had made banana BREAD. No explanation mattered. Her efforts were not acceptable. Nothing, in fact would be acceptable. Except a loaf of Zopf.

The worst part is, The Frau should have known better. Nothing in this rejected world of American banana bread surprised her. The fact that she had created a creative alternative demonstrated that she will never be Swiss. No matter how much Zopf eats.

So Baby M had no daycare birthday party since the banana bread was rejected right in front of her. Luckily, Baby M didn’t really understand. But in another year, the whole incident probably would have caused her to hang her head in shame, to have such a loaf banana bread in a world of Zopf for a mother.

Oh well. One loaf of rejected banana bread later, The Frau a Swiss lesson learned has. And Baby M all the more banana bread to herself enjoyed.


Anonymous said...

Wow. In your position, I would have cried ... literally. Kudos to you for having managed to cook dinner, bake a cake and take care of your little one on a weeknight! Do you think they think Zopf is healthier than banana bread? Or could it be an allergy issue, i.e. all the ingredients in the Zopf recipe provided have been okayed by other daycare parents? Allergies are (being made into) a big problem nowadays - as far as I understand, in the US even more so than here. Or was it one of those Swiss moments - a complete lack of flexibility?

Irene said...

I did follow the advice of baking Zopf for M's 1st birthday (didn't dare breaking the "rules" - btw, our little Ms seem to be attending the same Krippe "brand"). BUT I decided to use my grandma recipe of brioche (olive oil instead of butter) and bake it in the shape of a snail and a butterfly (using tooth-picks and ping-pong balls to decorate).
They didn't sent me back with the treats, the recipe was accepted. BUT the shape was not according to standards. I was told that the Zopf is not only to reduce the sugar intake of the kids, but also to avoid competition between them. No comments, indeed I'll never be Swiss either...

Hattie said...

Relax. They have been doing stuff like that all their lives. You can't do it their way,because unlike them you are not perfect. (Don't be fooled when they claim modestly that they are not perfect; they are lying.) The foreign women who try to be Swiss get burned out and often have to leave.
It does get you by the short hairs when your kids are involved, though. I developed a rhinoceros hide to deal with all the pettiness, but it was hard on my daughters.

Anonymous said...

I think that it was a bit much of them to expect you to bake a Zopf on a weeknight. It's time consuming! First you need to mix the ingredients, then kneed the dough for 15 mins and leave it to rise for at least an hour. Finally it needs to be baked for approx. 45 mins. If there's a next time, why not buying a Zopf in the supermarket and changing the wrapping! :-)

Anonymous said...

@keith a zopf at local supermarket is really expensive and usually Swiss mothers don't work so they have all the time in the world to bake...

swisssidejewelleryetc said...

Oh Chantal, I'm alternating between laughing at this and feeling totally outraged on your behalf! Don't these people know that bananas are a good source of potassium and vitamin K? But it is o so typical of certain things here. I take my hat off to you for taking it so calmly - I would have hung my head for weeks!!

Unknown said...

My goodness they are crazy in your corner of Switzerland. Wouldn't work in the West or even the middle of the country. Although even in the west and south Switzerland is one of the most conformist places anywhere.
Although I do understand the challenge too many birthday cakes and a competition between crazy mums that outbake each other and the kids whose mum just buys a generic Migros cake could cause...

Just buy the Zopf next time, then cover it in frosting ;)

Chantal said...

Thanks all for your support of this complete loaf of a banana bread. She tries to roll with the Swiss punches...but sometimes even after 7+ years, it's not easy taking the hits.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chantal,

I have been following your blog for quite a while now. I think it's very interesting to see how an expat manages to deal with us Swiss, especially as I live very close to you (Wettingen). I think many young people who just moved out of the comfort of there parents home have to make the same experiences as you do.
Now for the banana bread story: I told some of my friends what happend to you and we came up with several reasons why they could have rejected it.

1st: What you call banana bread is just too fancy to be considered bread in Switzerland. As you may noticed, bread is a big deal in Switzerland. If you ask any swiss expat what he missed you'll hear to things: drinking water from the tab and bread. As we see our selfs as some of the best breadbakers we are strict about what is worthy of being called bread and you banana bread might already classify as a dessert. Then we would be back to the baking competition between moms.

2nd: What I think is the more likely reason: Earlier this year the city Zurich handed out flyers to kindergarden parents with a list of healthy snacks for the "z'Nüni" and forbidden ones. As banana contains too much sugar it classifies as "only occasionally allowed". (A comment on that in the Mamablog: It sounds very stupid and most people had a good laugh about it, but that's actually what the rules are in kindergarden in Zurich.

I hope that helps you a bit understand what happend here. I feel sorry for you that you had such a bad experience, especially as you did try to make something original.

For the future some ideas how I would do it:
- If you don't have the time to make a Zopf yourself, don't beat yourself up, just go to a store and buy one. I would rather go to a good bakery (in Baden i.e. "Himmel" or "Moser's" instead of the grociery stores like Migros and Coop)
- If you don't want to stay up to long the night before, prepare it on the weekend, bake it only have the time, let it cool down and put it in the freezer. Take it out the evening before and finish baking it.

As baking a good Zopf is a mystery to itself, here are some things I learned over the years:
- A Zopf is done when you take it out, turn it around and knock on the bottom and it sounds hollow.
- If you want to make a fancy Zopf, add some saffron or bacon bits.
- For beginners: Try the prepared Zopf mixture from Coop. It works very well (you can double it or cut in in half depending on how much you need)
- As kids we always used to prepare our Zopf on Saturdays so we have a fresh one on Sundays (back when no bakery was open on Sundays). It's very fun for kids and the kneading makes them tired. As Christmas is coming up soon, the "Gritibänz" are acutally made out of Zopf-dough (
- Kneading is the most important part, you really have to do it properly. And you let to have the dough grow until it's twice as big as it was before (even if it takes longer then said on the recipe).
- While letting it grow, make a kitchentowl wet and put it over the dough (it shouldn't touch it but just to cover the bowl). It helps the dough to stay wet and grow.

I hope you understood everthing and apologies for the typos.

Best regards,

Chantal said...

Thanks Mirjam, great tips and well appreciated.

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