We had parked the car at the curb and run across the neatly trimmed lawn, “Are you sure this is OK?” I asked Emma.
She grabbed my hand and dragged me across the stoop to the front door of the pink suburban bungalow where her mother lived. “Of course it’s OK,” she said, “We’re expected.” She turned the knob and pushed the door open. “Hey Mom, it’s me. I mean it’s us. We’re here.”
There was no reply. In fact there was no noise at all in the house. The phrase silent as a tomb ran through my mind and I tried to dismiss it right away.
I squeezed Emma’s hand, “Maybe we have the wrong day,” I whispered. “Maybe she has a new boyfriend. We wouldn’t want to interrupt her. Maybe she’s shopping, or out of town. We should come back later. I’m not sure it’s a good time for me to meet your mother anyway.”
Emma stopped and gave me that look, the one that could freeze a dog to a fire hydrant. It got cold in there.
“Listen, David,” she said. “We’ve been dating for over a year. We’ve been engaged for three months and the wedding is less than two months away. You’re gonna have to meet her sometime, might as well be tonight. Besides, I think you’ll like her.” She turned her head back to the silent house and said, “Mama; es ist Emma. Wo du bist?“
Nothing, no response, we walked deeper into the silence. As we walked Emma continued her lecture, “Besides this is a good night to meet her. She’s Swiss remember, and tonight she’s serving raclette, which is like one of the three national dishes of Switzerland. She loves raclette and she’ll be in a great mood.”
“What’s raclette?” I asked.
“Basically, it’s melted cheese and you serve it with bread, gherkins, pickled onions, olives, new potatoes and pretty much anything else you like. I like small red potatoes the best with mine.”
“Like a fondue?” I ask. “That’s Swiss too, isn’t it?”
She considered my question and then said, “Yeah, I guess it’s a little like a fondue but you don’t have a pot of melted cheese. You put the edge of a half wheel of cheese near a fire or a heating element until it gets soft, or even toasty, then you use a knife to scrape it onto your plate or your bread. It’s really good – Orgasmically good. You have to drink white wine or tea with your meal to keep the cheese soft and then, if you want, you can finish it off with a taste of Kirsch.”
“What’s that?” I asked as we stepped through the door into a large eat-in kitchen where six people were sitting around the table staring at us. A middle aged blonde woman was holding a large chunk of cheese and wielding a knife. She set the knife on the table and handed the cheese to a red faced man sitting next to her. She came around the table and hugged Emma, “so, Ihr Freund hat kommen?” she asked.
“English Mama, please.” Emma replied.
“My name is Katerine,” she said to me and she smiled as she shook my hand. “Welcome.”
Everyone at the table started moving their chairs closer together and Emma left the room. “I’m David,” I said.
“We know,” the red faced man with the cheese interjected. Sporadic chuckling from the others punctuated his statement.
Emma returned with two folding chairs and set them in the newly opened space at the table. Plates and glasses appeared from nowhere.
“These other people are my family,” Emma said, “Mostly aunts and uncles but that young girl over there is my cousin, Anna.” We all nodded at one another and tucked into our food. I was eating one of the finest meals I’d ever eaten and in my reverie, with the molten cheese, I spoke up and asked of no one in particular, “Emma tells me that this is one of three national Swiss dishes. What are the other two?”
Everyone said in unison, “Geschnetzeltes mit rösti, and chocolate.”
Thanks to the Pinot gris the rest of the evening is mostly a blur. I learned that Kirsh is a kind of Schnapps made from cherries and I let Emma drive home. When we pulled into the drive Emma pushed my elbow to wake me up, “You passed the test,” she said, “they like you.”