Hixie's Natural Log

2002-12-12 09:34 UTC Yummy celebrations

Today is la fête de l'Escalade in Geneva, Switzerland, my home.

You see, back on the night of the 12th of December, 1602, the troups of Charles-Emmanuel, the Duke of Savoy, tried invading the city of Geneva. (Much like New York, Geneva is a town in a canton of the same name. Canton is the Swiss name for State.)

They tried to enter the city by scaling the city's walls on ladders. That's where the name Escalade comes from: it means "The act of scaling a fortified wall or rampart". The hopelessly outnumbered Geneva poplulace won by defending their city using anything that came to hand: artillery, hand to hand weaponry, and in one famous case, a marmite. The story goes that a certain Mère Royaume disposed of one enemy soldier and scattered several soldiers who were with him by emptying her cauldron of hot vegetable soup (marmite) out of her window.

In honour of this event, each year the chocolatiers of Geneva (there are quite a few, chocolate is big business in Switzerland) make little model chocolate marmites filled with marzipan vegetables. Tradition requires that such a pot be smashed and then that the shards and vegetables be eaten. Novelty real-size (i.e. huge) chocolate marmite pots are also sold (at exorbitant prices of course): e.g. before being smashed, after being smashed. (Photos courtesey of Dominique Thiébaut.)

There are also big celebrations in the town itself: an official parade (done in typical Swiss style, meaning it lasts a good three hours and is torch-lit) and many fancy dress parades for the kids, organised by the schools.

I'll be enjoying my share of a small chocolate marmite later today. Happy Escalade!