Marmites & champagne

Last night was the third annual, classic, traditional, long-awaited, heartily-celebrated Marmites & Champagne party. My best friend Anna has been hosting it three years running, and this year we generously invited our boyfriends to smash the marmite with us.

That's not a euphemism. Here in Geneva, we celebrate L'Escalade, the commemoration of the 1602 mid-night surprise attack by the Duke of Savoy's troops, where the people of Geneva rose up to fight back and won. Or as Anna's boyfriend Chris put it, "Sod the French."

Because this is still Switzerland, after all, the celebration involves chocolate, this time in the form of chocolate cauldrons ("marmites," in French), filled with marzipan vegetables. That recalls the famous story of the Mère Royaume, a mother of 14 children, who seized a boiling pot of stew and threw it over the head of an approaching attacker, or "Savoyard," killing him. (Yes, she was boiling stew in the middle of the night. Suspend your disbelief for one moment and appreciate the feminism of this story. That Mère Royaume was way ahead of her time.)

Anyway, thanks to her, the shops and streets of Geneva are literally filled with chocolate marmites this time of year. You buy one, gather your friends and family around the table, and then the oldest and youngest join hands over the marmite, and - dramatically - speak the following words:

"Et qu'ainsi périssent tous les ennemis de la république!"

("And thus, perish all the enemies of the Republic!" ... I told you it was dramatic.)

And then you smash the marmite, violently, scattering pieces of chocolate and marzipan veggies flying. And then you eat, feasting, as it were, on the flesh of your enemies. I'm only just realizing now that this really is rather a violent custom we introduce Genevese children to.

But such fun. It feels like home, and fond memories, and friendship, and sharing.

And chocolate, of course.

Such fun.

Love,
Joëlle