You know you’re in Austria and not Australia when… you smear cheese all over your body


When I was struggling with back pain I began using a standing desk, which helped, but then my heels started aching. After complaining to hubby, he stopped by the supermarket and as I was chilling on the couch that evening, he smeared topfen over my heels and wrapped them in plastic film. When I mentioned this remedy, astonished, to a local friend she looked at me like duh.

Topfen (or quark), is a soft, creamy cheese made by warming soured milk until it curdles and adding bacteria. You’ll find it in many Austrian dishes like topfen strudel or Kärntner Nudeln but Austrians also swear by its medicinal properties. For things like aching joints and swelling, Austrians are all for spreading this slightly weird smelling cheese over the painful parts. The theory is that it draws out the inflammation, both by being cold and by its properties. It’s not quite as practical as an ice pack, and it’s messier, but it does mould well to your body so for things like heels it’s great!

And does it work? Well, it’s at least as good as ice, and when I came down with the dreaded mastitis recently, I was all too happy to have my breast coated in topfen. Because if there’s any chance of fixing it quicker, then I’m all for it!


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