Food History: ‘Venice is built on water, but Berne upon wine’

Sorry it’s been a little quiet on the ole blog front, we have recently had two lots of relatives visit. Michael’s parents for a week and my sister for week just gone. My sister Tabitha loved visiting Switzerland and also loved the Swiss food! We went for a day to visit a local castle in Spiez. Here they have recently redone the kitchen and food exhibit in the main castle so we enjoyed reading all the new information.

I have included a few photos from our visit:

This is an old sugar (Zucker) cone with chopping board. The Sugar used to be traded, transported and delivered in this way, similar to salt (Salz). Then it would be chopped off as required then mashed further to make it finer in a mortar. Additionally, the salt and sugar cones would have been kept in wooden containers to stop moisture affecting the quality.


They also had a great selection of herbs and spices which would have been used in meals to add flavour, alter or disguise the taste of food and to show the high status of the noble family living there. Again it was interesting to see meat of all kinds being used in the castle kitchen – there is evidence to suggest that Franz Ludwig von Erlach (1575-1651) had over 546 poultry items cooked for his wedding feast – from peacock to dove! The type of poultry be it moorhen, sparrow or peacock reflected how rich or poor a family were.

This is a Daubiere. A bit like a stewing pot and an early Burgundian version. The fence like lid allows embers and hot coals to be placed on top so that the food can cook more evenly.


This is my favourite find in Spiez Castle kitchen. A Waffle Pan! Waffle makers are common in both Austria and Switzerland. Nowadays you can get electrical ones and old fashioned metal ones which have intricate patterns on and are used over the stove or fire. However, this Waffle pan from Spiez Castle dated 1597 has not only patterns but also the noble family’s crest on it!


We got to learn a little more about the history of Wine within the canton too. The old Phrase ‘Venice is built on water, but Berne upon wine’ is very true to the canton! Bern is the capital, but Spiez is a small town in the region. Spiez has many vineyards even now along the hillsides and has a large wine making industry. Today it is a big industry and important but in the 1500s it was key. The wine harvest and trade was essential to the Nobles prosperity and success. Additionally, wine was consumed in huge quantities not just because it was readily available; it was thought to also have healing health properties.

Overall, Tabitha and I really enjoyed Spiez town, castle and finding out the social history of how the castle worked and more importantly the food history. We thought we should end our food and historical tour of the town by popping into the local bakery for some local bread and cakes as the waffle pan had us thinking about pastries!

I hope you have enjoyed this piece, please do let me know what you think, and any of your own stories about food, cooking, animal raising or wine making!

Katy, The Good Life In Practice x


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