Swiss Sunday: Eggs and Refrigerators

As an American, I demand the right to a massive refrigerator/freezer with ice water in the door.

That’s not a thing here.

Okay, it’s becoming more popular, but it certainly hasn’t been available in any of the three apartments I’ve rented since I moved to Switzerland. The refrigerators have all been relatively small.

My current apartment-provided fridge is slightly larger than what you’d buy for your 18-year-old to take to college. I have two teens, one of whom is 6’5″. This is not going to work for us.

So I bought a fridge off Facebook marketplace three years ago when we moved here. It was not anywhere close to American-sized, but it was enough to keep food in the house so we could survive a weekend and have a place for my eggs.

See, in Switzerland (and, as far as I know, all of Europe); eggs don’t go in the fridge. They sit on the counter. They are kept at room temperature. Unlike American eggs, they aren’t washed off and stripped of their protective coating. (They often come with feathers like the picture.) So eggs live on the counter. Who has room in their tiny Euro-fridges?

Well, I do.

Up until about a month ago when my big fridge died.

I eat eggs regularly as they are good protein, so it’s not like my eggs sit around for months, getting old. When reduced to just a tiny fridge, I put the eggs on the counter as any good Swiss person would. It’s even winter, so my house never gets above 22 degrees Celsius (72 Fahrenheit) and is usually below that. No reason not to have my eggs on the counter!

And while I ate a few of them, I couldn’t wrap my brain around the psychological block. Eggs should be kept cold. They need to be in the fridge. I acknowledge that I don’t know a single Swiss person who died of salmonella poisoning, but I could not do it.

So after two weeks, my new (read: also purchased on Facebook marketplace) fridge arrived. I threw out the counter eggs, bought a new carton of eggs, and put them in the refrigerator where they belong. (Don’t remind me that the grocery store keeps them at room temperature.)

I know it’s psychological.

I know it’s okay to keep Swiss eggs on the counter–especially in the winter when it’s cool in the house.

I don’t like it.

I’m perfectly willing to adopt other Swiss customs, but by golly, this is not one of them.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

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11 thoughts on “Swiss Sunday: Eggs and Refrigerators

  1. Congrats on the new fridge! When I was in my early 20s I had an internship at a peace & reconciliation center in Ireland where we did workshops with teenagers on issues around stereotypes, discrimination and the like. One of the exercises we would say a national identity (Ireland, British, American) and have them write down the first word that came to mind. I’d collect them all and we would then discuss. As you could imagine there were a lot of expected American stereotypes (fat, stupid, loud, rich, surfers, cities, etc.). One time someone put down “Fridges”. I asked my Irish coworkers what this meant – was this slang that I didn’t know? “No, it means refrigerators. You Americans have really large fridges. We see them on your TV shows.”. It has stuck with me to this day, to this one kid who must have been very impressed with our fridges if it was the very first thing that came to mind when he thought of an American.

    On eggs: Yeah, when I was in Scandinavia a few years back I was completely shocked to be in the grocery store and see eggs on SHELVES. Just out there like bread. It was so weird to me, I didn’t know it was a thing.

  2. LOL I think it’s a cultural thing keeping things in minimalist form .. Half of me comes from a country where food and eating is a big thing and everyone has 2 fridges .. In Switzerland, everything is minimized. I always gasp in wonder when my guests bring me the smallest flowers or the smallest cake or when I am invited for dinner that leaves me hungry and thinking- is that all? haha.
    My grandmother and the rest of my Swiss family always kept the eggs in the fridge but my mother never did lol. I also keep my eggs in the fridge but only because my cat likes to play with them and they usually end up on the floor sometime at 4am when she starts roaming for food :)..
    So is it a Swiss thing? I am not so sure about that 🙂 🙂

  3. People in countries outside the USA must make purchases for perishables much more often than typical suburban American shoppers since they don’t have to go very far to get these items. We have sections of areas in the USA where fresh perishable food purchasing is a desert loss and don’t tell me stores like Dollar General supply the gap.
    Because of that, there are fewer preservatives placed on perishable items in Europe. But even if the eggs in Europe are not pasteurized which subjects the eggs to a special wash and special heat that removes the outer shell, those eggs left at room temperature are losing their quality faster than if they were refrigerated. There is a big difference is an egg kept cool and an egg left sitting out prior to cooking it. I checked for the main reason eggs are not pasteurized in Europe is that the chickens are vaccinated against Salmonella and they are supposedly kept in very sanitized living arrangements. I could not find any information on whether the cartons of eggs are labeled as to where they came from as they are in the USA as required by the USDA mandates. You could store them in a solution of slaked lime, water, and cream of tartar which will keep the eggs preserved “good to eat” for up to 2 years.
    I don’t think EvilHRlady is going to get sick from the unrefrigerated eggs from the market considering the fact that she is using up her eggs pretty fast, unlike her Swiss neighbors who don’t have eggs as part of their daily meals but actually use the eggs within a day or two of purchase. Personally, if I had chickens that laid eggs for me to gather daily, I would gather them, let them cool, and place them in the refrigerator separated from anything else and wash the eggs I use prior to cracking those eggs, just like I wash all my perishable vegetables. We also have to realize that housing in countries like Europe was built before electricity was developed and appliances added into the areas that were formerly outside cooking areas now enclosed into kitchens as we know them.

    1. The issue isn’t necessarily suburbs in the USA. It’s the vast tracts of rural and undeveloped land that we have. A suburban family can reasonably go to a well-stocked grocery store every day if they so chose (note that financial planners suggest shopping once a week to curb impulse buying). A grocery store is likely 20-30 minutes away by car, and this is the USA; you can almost certainly buy lightbulbs, a flapper valve, a TV and a new shirt at the same time! In contrast, I’ve been in quite a number of places in the USA where the nearest grocery store–of any quality at all–was 3-4 HOURS away by car. That’s not a distance you can travel every day; a simple trip to the grocery store requires significant planning and is a once-a-week event at best. Call it a food desert if you want; ecologically speaking much of the USA is a steppe, and it’s never in human history been easy to supply those areas.

      This, by the way, is why trains will never be as popular in the USA as they are in Europe. The distances in the USA are simply too large. There is no way to carry the necessary supplies to maintain a home on a train when you have to ride it for several hours. You can’t take two weeks of groceries, plus a few sheets of plywood and some lumber, plus a new toilet, plus paint on a train!

      1. “The distances in the USA are simply too large. ”

        This is true, but not inevitable. Having so many places with those kind of distances is the result of policy and planning decisions. (and people do realize there are rural areas in Europe, right?)

  4. We used to have chickens. It was quite fun telling friends that we didn’t put them in the refrigerator. We never convinced anyone to try it.

  5. Japan is another country that stores eggs at room temperature. When I was living there, I forgot and bought eggs from the refrigerated section of the grocery store on more than one occasion. Those eggs are partially cooked. Great for sukiyaki, not so much for my intended baking. My English husband couldn’t understand why I kept making the same mistake, but Eggs Belong In The Fridge was apparently very ingrained.

    (Now we live in America. The eggs from our chickens stay on the counter. Since it’s winter and they aren’t laying enough and I have to buy eggs – which I’m quite salty about, btw – they stay in the fridge.)

  6. I’m with the EHRL. When I was in college, we were told that eggs were fine, unrefrigerated, for up to 1 week. Personally, I never tried it. Of course, that was long before all the commercially-produced eggs in America were contaminated with Salmonella.

  7. My brother (who is American and has an America sized fridge) has backyard chickens. I was at his house this past weekend and noticed his eggs in a basket on a shelf. I have always known this about eggs protective coating and them being okay at room temp but seeing those eggs sitting out like that just seemed so wrong to me. I don’t think I could get myself to eat them if I tried. It’s crazy how ingrained it is in us to see eggs as a refrigerated food.

  8. And here I thought we were known for our expansive chips aisle in the grocery store…

    Eggs and butter go in the fridge. Even if they started vaccinating chickens against salmonella and changing whatever processing makes fridge-ing necessary in the US, I don’t need more stuff taking up space on my counters.

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