Friends in high places

Glühwein is the ideal warming drink: especially when entertaining on the top of a mountain
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Indy Lifestyle Online

I am with 18 girls from Surval Mont-Fleuri, one of Switzerland's last finishing schools, and I've booked a table for lunch half-way up the mountain. I was studying the book of etiquette until 3am, and paid special attention to "Chapter Five - The Ski Trip". Now I can't get page 47 out of my head. "The boy must always enter the café/bar before the girl," it reads. "He will accompany her towards the table. It is the boy who will speak to the head waiter. It is he who will explain what the young girl wishes. And it is he who will pay the bill." Which is where I draw the line. The girls pay fees of 12,000 Swiss francs per term, and I will insist the pleasure is all theirs.

I am with 18 girls from Surval Mont-Fleuri, one of Switzerland's last finishing schools, and I've booked a table for lunch half-way up the mountain. I was studying the book of etiquette until 3am, and paid special attention to "Chapter Five - The Ski Trip". Now I can't get page 47 out of my head. "The boy must always enter the café/bar before the girl," it reads. "He will accompany her towards the table. It is the boy who will speak to the head waiter. It is he who will explain what the young girl wishes. And it is he who will pay the bill." Which is where I draw the line. The girls pay fees of 12,000 Swiss francs per term, and I will insist the pleasure is all theirs.

The bar doesn't ask any questions, architecturally. It is made of logs - and lots of them. Which is as traditional as salad and fondue. I order beer, but the Head Waiter refuses to serve me. "The cheese makes balls in your stomach, and you will have really trouble digesting it," he says. "White wine, schnapps, or hot tea you must drink." I settle on Aigle - a local Swiss wine. "Oh no," he says. "You're eating salad, so you shouldn't drink white wine. The vinegar in the salad sauce - it's not complementing the wine that I am about to be serving you." I settle on glühwein. And tell him to put his fondue in a place that you wouldn't read about in Chapter Five.

Glühwein is as old as the hills. The first recipe for Hypocras (a warm, spiced wine which took its name from the Greek father of medicine) dates from 1662. It contained sherry, white wine, allspice, nutmeg, cloves and sugar, and is reckoned to be the root of glühwein, vin chaud, glintvejn and mulled wine. It certainly makes deportment that bit more difficult. Bella Frantuzu, Professeur d'Etiquette, reminds the girls to put their hands where she can see them. "Only in England do ladies keep hands on their lap," says Frantuzu. "You know why? Gardening. Their hands are not good."

Frantuzu has taught the young ladies of Surval how to walk, sit and climb stairs - things the rest of us take for granted - for the last 16 years. But she is a free-thinking radical in the world of etiquette. "It's still the case that a married woman is supposed to deserve more respect than a single - or divorced - woman. So when you are seating people round a table, you are meant to give the married woman the best place. This is stupid, and I hope it will change. What I hope will not change is etiquette based on respect, and real moral values." And that one about not putting your hands on the lap.

Glühwein

1 litre of wine (red or white)

15tsp of sugar

4 1/4 inch by 3/4 inch pieces of lemon peel

4 cloves

4 cinnamon sticks, broken into small pieces

juice of 1/4 lemon

Pour wine into a pan and add sugar, and lemon juice. Place cloves, cinnamon and lemon peel into a cloth tea bag. Place tea bag into wine mixture and heat. Do not boil. The longer this cooks the better. I favour at least 4 hours.

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