Many years ago, I crossed the Atlantic alone for the first time to study abroad in Switzerland, something I had always dreamed of doing. Although I instantly fell in love with the country, I had a harder time feeling comfortable around the people and settling into the environment of the tiny, isolated town I was in. I wanted to leave. I was young and naïve, and if I could go back in time, I would have handled myself differently, but alas, that’s retrospect for you.
One morning at dawn, I took off alone lugging my giant suitcase behind me to the train station without telling anyone. I got on the northbound morning train and abandoned my study abroad program, the people I had met, and the money I had paid for the class. (Side note: I might have some issues with being a quitter, but that’s for another time). Even though that may have been a little cowardly of me, I knew I didn’t want to just go home completely but preferred to travel alone for a bit before my return. I headed for the medieval-ancient city of Lucern, and as soon as I got off the train, I instantaneously felt like I had arrived exactly where I was meant to be, even if it took an unintended way to get there.
I went sightseeing, devoured the unique culture of Lucern and ate like I had never eaten before. I was pleasantly surprised by the influences of the surrounding countries on Switzerland’s cuisine. There was hearty pasta, fresh seafood, bright sauces, scrumptiously diverse pizzas. Even now, years later, I can recall every meal with detailed, delicious reminiscence. When I returned to the U.S., I think my scaredy-cat escape from the program blinded some’s appreciation for what I had experienced. I remember my hairdresser disappointedly saying, “Didn’t you meet any men there?”
I hadn’t come back with some exotic European boyfriend, but I did come back with a love story that still lingers actively in my heart. Food connects us with world travel (and also our own self-reflection) so sacredly it is almost indescribable. In Lucern, I would sit alone at an outside café by journaling or reading and devouring gorgeous meals in complete solitude—and it was perfect. Sometimes, when we’re free from the distraction of conversation and being around others, food tastes more delicious, can be better appreciated, and provides savory memories with that much more exactness. Food can be the ultimate companion and a welcomed solace, especially when we’re taking time to get to know ourselves.
A couple of years later, I did wind up meeting a man and a few years after that, I escorted him back across the Atlantic and married him in my beloved town of Lucern. And although we had more than our fair share of amazing Swiss meals there (oh, the cheeses!), my heart still recounts my solo experience there years earlier with warm, mouthwatering, and loving food memories that I’ll never forget.
Debra’s Roasted Garlic, Sun-Dried Tomato and Olive Tagliatelle
This pasta dish is inspired by one of the first meals I had on my own in Switzerland. I had it while sitting outside in the heart of old town Lucern, and I took my husband back to the same restaurant years later. I recreate the dish for my family every once in a while, and when I do, I feel like it is embracing me with memories of my experience there. It’s my homage to solo travel, for courageousness to dine alone, take a trip alone, and experience life alone without needing someone by my side to do it!
Roasted garlic is the star ingredient taking this to an entirely new level, making it sweet and intensifying its rich flavor. Combining it with gently sautéed olives, savory sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh spinach pasta creates a flavor-bomb of a dish that is unforgettable and unique. Pair this with a grilled baguette topped with fresh mozzarella and cherry tomatoes and curl up to enjoy—whether sharing with loved ones or blissfully and perfectly by yourself, just like the first time I had it! Enjoy!
• 4 tablespoons butter, divided
• 5 cloves garlic, peeled
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• One pound fresh spinach tagliatelle (or other flat pasta such as fettucine)
• ½ cup black olives, sliced
• Approximately ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil and roughly chopped or sliced
• Salt and pepper, to taste
1) Heat oven to 350 F.
2) Place peeled garlic cloves in a small roasting pan or oven-safe dish and drizzle a tablespoon of oil on them, tossing gently. Place in heated oven and roast approximately 20 minutes, or until lightly browned and sweetly fragrant. When cooled slightly, give cloves a rough chop.
3) Cook tagliatelle according to package directions, seasoning the cooking water with salt. Drain and set aside.
4) Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a sauté pan. Sauté garlic, olives and sun-dried tomatoes about 5 minutes, or until fragrant and softened slightly. Season with salt and pepper.
5) Toss the drained tagliatelle with the olive/garlic mixture, gently tossing until all pasta is coated and loosened. Season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Enjoy!