The cheese isn’t the only difference
Two families have remained connected over 40 years, despite a 3,400 mile distance, tying Holcombe and Switzerland together by a bond of friendship. Because of that, the next generation has become like family.
Stephanie Zaugg, 24, visited Jane Skaare and her family in Holcombe, during the last part of January, into February. Jane was very active in FFA in high school and after graduating in the 1980s, she went on a work experience program through the FFA.
Jane picked Bern, Switzerland, where she ended up living with Stephanie’s grandparents, Otto and Nelly. Jane again visited in 2004, taking her parents, Erv and Mary Jane, along, as well as her daughter, Katherine.
“Her (Stephanie) dad and I stayed in contact throughout the many years,” said Jane, “and then all the sudden, I get an email from him.”
Stephanie, who is attending university to become a teacher, needed to go abroad to practice her English that she chose as a subject and with her younger brother as an exchange student in Ohio, a lot of things clicked. Messages were sent and Stephanie found herself on a plane flying across the Atlantic Ocean from Zurich, Switzerland, to New York, then from New York to St. Paul, Minn.
Something Stephanie didn’t bargain on, was the two-hour drive from the airport to Holcombe.
“We never take the car, ever,” said Stephanie, referring to the public bus and train transportation in Switzerland. “There aren’t a lot of parking spots where you could park in the cities. And, it’s so expensive.”
In her time in Holcombe, Stephanie loved going to stores, especially since she didn’t have to pay to park just to go to the grocery store.
“I love the stores around here, they are so big and awesome,” said Stephanie, adding she loved Woodman’s in Eau Claire. “That’s crazy.”
“She was fascinated by the chip aisle,” agreed Jane.
Food was a bit of a struggle, as Stephanie says in Switzerland, they eat much “cleaner,” with chicken, pasta and vegetables, leaving off the sauces. Jane’s restaurant, the Lake Holcombe Cafe, is famous for its Sammy’s omelette, featuring hashbrowns, eggs and ham, smothered in hollandaise sauce, something Stephanie can’t get over.
“That doesn’t go together,” she said.
“They eat pretty basic,” said Jane.
Cheese is also something Stephanie couldn’t get used to and says Switzerland’s cheese is a lot better than what is made/eaten in Wisconsin.
“And you put cheese on everything,” said Stephanie.
In spite of her misgivings about “good old Wisconsin fare,” Stephanie is going to try to recreate Jane’s recipes back home in Switzerland. It may not be easy, as the Swiss don’t use cups, instead using milligrams and weighing the flour.
To help her along, Jane bought a set of measuring cups for Stephanie to take home. Stephanie did enjoy Jane’s pancakes and scones, however, and adores cookies.
“I love to try things,” said Stephanie.
She certainly got her chance, when she helped Erv and Jane’s brother, Lonny, bottle homemade wine. That wasn’t all she did, as Erv took her along to a cake walk at a church and the family went to a murder mystery dinner.
Stephanie also got to visit a chicken farm in Tilden, where Jane gets her eggs for the cafe. She also experienced a Super Bowl party at Erv’s, ate ribs at Exeland, and went with Jane to get taxes done.
“I have been to a lot of places, but I have never stayed in a town and did the stuff that regular people around do,” said Stephanie.
Although she is used to a lot of snow up in the mountains, Stephanie says she loved seeing the snow-covered Wisconsin roads, and walking the dogs in the chilly air.
A good portion of her time was spent hanging around the cafe, something she feels her dad and brother would love.
“It’s really nice here,” said Stephanie.
Stephanie was only able to stay for three weeks, before she left to visit her brother before making her way home, but says she hopes to come back some day for another visit.
“We’re sad that she’s leaving,” said Jane.
Since she’s not used to such a small, rural area, Stephanie couldn’t believe how everyone talks to everyone else like they do in Holcombe.
“I love that the people are really open,” she said. “Back home, that’s a little bit different. I’m not used to it, that someone can tell you their life story when you meet them the first time.”