My favorite thing about flying Swiss airlines is not the beautiful views of the mountains, nor the comedic hidden camera sketches they show on the airplane monitors, nor even the free chocolate they hand out at the end of every flight.
It's the in-flight magazine.
Specifically, how there's always at least one page with something really Swiss on it. Sure, you've got your watch advertisements, your luxury writing instrument ads, your travel features. But what I'm talking about is that special "Only in Switzerland" touch.
In this month's magazine, it's a cheese advertisement. Featuring a Swiss man standing proudly next to enormous hunks of cheese.
How do I know he's Swiss? Well, for one, he's shouldering a giant alphorn. Swiss shepherds have used them to call the cows down from the mountains, and, also, to communicate with each other pre-WhatsApp (possibly post-WhatsApp too. I'm not sure.)
For another, he's just a burly, bearded example of pure masculinity. Look at that vest! Wouldn't you want someone who looks like that to personify a country's 450 types of cheese? I bet he's named something classically Swiss, like Urs-Fritz Güntherli.
He even makes a second appearance later in the magazine, to reinforce the very power of his product:
There he is again, still shilling his cheeses. Look at that knowing smirk, that raised eyebrow. He knows what I want.
The accompanying two-page article promises that I too can "Experience the craft of cheesemaking: You can watch cheesemakers live at a wide range of Swiss dairies and look over their shoulders right into the cheese vat." Is there a soul alive who would not say yes to such a proposition?
Obligingly, I went straight to a Swiss restaurant for dinner in Vevey tonight: Les Trois Sifflets. I ordered rösti potatoes, smothered in layers of raclette cheese.
I savored. And I thought about the man with the alphorn.