— Chocolate and cheese are Switzerland's best-known foods, but the country's favorite sausage is now under scrutiny in the nation's parliament.
Swiss pork-and-beef sausages known as cervelat have traditionally used Brazilian cow-intestine skins, but the European Union has banned imports of the skins, fearing they may contain traces of mad cow disease.
Picnickers flock to parks in the weekend to barbecue the large, bland sausages which look like giant hot dogs. But skin stocks will run out by the end of the year, forcing butchers to use alternatives which purists say split easily and lack flavor. Some even fear the sausage makers will run out of intestines before the Euro 2008 soccer championships the Swiss and Austrians are hosting in June.
Parliamentarians tried last week to put pressure on Economics Minister Doris Leuthard to come up with a rescue plan. "I ask you not to underestimate the importance of this problem," said one worried senator during a heated debate.
The minister assured lawmakers there would be enough sausages for soccer championship spectators, and promised to push for a review of the EU ban.
If that fails, Swiss fans may just have to put up with inferior skins, even if they do not curl the sausage when cooked, she said. "I believe Swiss consumers will have the courage to accept a slightly straighter cervelat."
Sorry, but we expect an lot weiner-eater whining over the substitute cervelats.
Pregnant performance planned
Call it a making-babies ballet: A British dance company is recruiting pregnant women for an upcoming performance.
Far from being heavy, lumbering and clumsy, pregnant women are often fascinating, beautiful and serene, according to the ballet company's artistic director.
And to prove it, Balletlorent is recruiting 12 pregnant women to star in a dance production alongside six professional ballet dancers.
"MaEternal" will be performed in the northern English city of Newcastle in May and is offering the 12 who get through the auditions "a chance to share with an audience the beauty of what it means to carry the life of another within you."
Artistic Director Liv Lorent, who, coincidentally, is pregnant herself, says she has always been keen to combine trained dancers with people from all ages and stages in life to make her ballet productions richer.
"I've done projects in the past where I have invited all sorts of people — children, old people, builders, footballers, doctors, all sorts — to take part," she said.
She notes the stark contrast between the typically lithe, light and muscular physique of a dancer, and the softer, rounder contours of a pregnant woman, and delights in it.
"You can't get a 25-year-old size 8 ballet dancer-type body to move with the weight, the gravitas or the sheer cheerful spirit of a pregnant woman," she said.
Lorent promises that no previous dance experience is necessary to audition for a part in MaEternal. The only requirement is that anyone wishing to take part should be up to 32 weeks by the time of the performance on May, 14. Beyond that, she says, the risk is too high of unplanned dramas on stage.
We hope there's a doctor in the house in any case.
Free suds samples
Attention shoppers, happy hour on Aisle Three: Washington state lawmakers have approved a pilot program that will allow beer and wine tasting in 30 grocery stores statewide in an effort to market local products.
The measure now heads to the governor, after passing the Senate 29-17. It earlier passed the House.
The one-year program, strongly supported by the state's microbrewery and wine industries, allows shoppers to sample as much as 4 ounces of beer or wine. Supporters say it allows small wineries or breweries with no marketing budget to get their products out to the public.
Opponents contend the program sets a bad example by exposing children to alcohol consumption.
We think these people need to chill out. With samples limited to a third of a single bottle of beer, we are unlikely to see a rash of drunken grocery-cart driving.