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Pizzoccheri!

I've dined high and I've dined low on this trip in many ways.

Ever since my youth in Leysin, I've been passionate about fondue, always insisting that it include just the right amounts of kirschwasser liqueur in addition to garlic, pepper, gruyere, and dry white wine, plus a couple of other ingredients. But on this gram-counting trip, I've been reduced to what I call "mountaineer's fondue": cheese (any sort) heated in water with salami and chunks of bread stirred in. It is food; food is good.

So yesterday's meals were a special treat: by happy coincidence I had vast quantities of the local specialty, pizzoccheri, not once, but twice. The first was a real culinary experience.

In the gorgeous little town of Poschiavo (the biggest in the region), there's a rough stone house dating to the 14th century in which four very poor spinster sisters lived nearly until death. The Tomé sisters never married perhaps because they feared men. Their father had been a sort of policeman and the local jailer and for a while in their childhood they'd lived in the jail tower where they heard too much of the rough men inside. This tower, on the beautifully car-free town plaza, also happens to house the most extensive written archives of witch burnings in Switzerland- some 300 having been burned here in a hundred-year period. The last Tomé sister died a few years ago and the community inherited their stone house. The building inside has been turned into a museum that reflects the way poor people lived for hundreds of years - in other words, they left it alone. But it's amazing, a real treasure too rich for a quick description.

In the kitchen Nadia Bergier prepared us pizzoccheri from scratch. It's a simple homemade pasta dish that's renowned for its buckwheat noodles, cabbage, potatoes, garlic, and vast quantities of butter (and a couple of other ingredients). It was food to fill the hungry bellies of people who worked hard in the cold all day. My companion, Rebecca, who had merely ridden the train to get here, ate about a third or less. I ate the rest. And it was so good that when the restaurant offered me the same dish in the evening, I gladly ate that too. And when they offered me second helpings, I said yes, prego.

At 780 metres, Campocologno is one of the lowest points on my trip. But so far it's been one of the highlights of my dining.