Friday, December 18, 2009

Celebrating the Escalade

A couple weekends ago was Escalade - a Geneva holiday. Not a Swiss one. Just for the people in Geneva. While the name may lead you to think it's the day the Genevoix celebrate full-size luxury sport utility vehicles, it's actually a little more interesting. In a nutshell:

In the middle of the night on December 11, 1602, the French mounted a surprise attack on the city-state of Geneva, hoping to plunder its wealth.

According to legend, as the French were climbing the walls of the city (escalade means to go up a ladder), a woman who lived above the town gate was up late preparing vegetable soup when she looked out her window and saw the troops approaching in the darkness. Not knowing what else to do, she dumped the scalding soup and the cauldron on them. The ensuing commotion woke the rest of the city, and with men called to arms, the invasion was unsuccessful.

In short, the French were beaten by a bowl of soup. They just can't win, the French.

Today, Escalade is celebrated by serving...wait for it...vegetable soup. But go anywhere in the city, and you can buy various sizes of chocolate cauldrons, which are filled with marzipan vegetables. The night of Escalade, the oldest person and the youngest person in the house each take a spoon and say in French, "So perish the enemies of the Republic!" and then smash the cauldron. (Kind of makes me wish we had something patriotic to shout before biting off the head of a chocolate Easter Bunny.)

Escalade has also become a bit of a costume party. Kind of a Swiss Halloween with kids and even teens wearing costumes to school and parties. Not sure what dressing up as Spiderman has to do with a 1602 foiled invasion, but, whatever.

No comments: