The many faces of eating at CERN

I made some promises to myself for the summer: not too much eating out, regular food shopping, and home-cooked meals. Switzerland and France are expensive places; for instance, a shopping bag containing some vegetables (a few peppers and tomatoes), fruit (apples and bananas), some cheese, milk, yogurt, baguette, and pasta runs close to 30-40 Swiss Franc (about $25-$35 U.S.). However, a single meal at a restaurant often runs AT LEAST this much.


Whipping this into something resembling a tasty meal takes some extra effort. Air conditioning is not common in Switzerland, unless the building is for business; running the stove for 30 minutes to make dinner means sweating through your clothes, with temperatures in the 80s and humidity at uncomfortable levels.

I’ve managed to stick close to my promise. My host and I have shared cooking duties over the past two weeks, including the meal shown below:


From top to bottom: artichokes (cooked in some oil and tomato); beans cooked with peppers, onions, garlic, and cream; and chicken paprikash (chicken sauteed in cream, onion, pepper, paprika, and garlic).

Of course, food means gathering – not just eating alone. A few of the SMU graduate students organized a Fourth of July cookout at a park near CERN and Meyrin, a residential community by the laboratory. There were burgers and sausages, pickles and condiments and even American chips (Doritos!). We were joined not only by SMU folk, but by friends and colleagues from other Universities, including nearby UT Arlington and far-flung New York University (NYU). Kids were present, too, which made the whole thing feel a lot more like a family gathering on the 4th and less like a bunch of work colleagues hanging out and tossing a frisbee.

(From left to right: Ryan (SMU grad. student), Tingting (SMU grad student), Rozmin (SMU grad student), Kyle (NYU Professor, standing behind Rozmin), Renat (SMU grad student), Aidan (SMU post-doc), Sami (SMU engineer), Amir (UTA Professor), Haleh (SMU post-doc, behind Amir), and Ryszard (SMU Professor). For more about people in our department, see

Of course, sometimes you do eat out. It’s unavoidable. There is a budding tradition in the SMU CERN group of picking a new place on Friday night, someplace preferably where you can dine for less than 20-30 CHF and which can be added to the list of affordable but tasty restaurants in Geneva. This past Friday evening, we found ourselves at a small local chain of chicken restaurants with a limited but delicious menu. The most popular item at our table? The half-chicken, roasted, with fries and salade (demi-poulet avec pommes frites et salade).

(from left to right: Rozmin, Renat, Aidan, and Ryan)

About Stephen Sekula

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