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A matter of taste

The Taste Week is a celebration of cuisine from Switzerland and around the world


If you think food today is bland and over-processed, then French-speaking Switzerland might just be the place to be this week. At almost 150 events, people are being encouraged to change their eating habits and rediscover their sense of taste.

Switzerland's first-ever Semaine du Goût, or Taste Week, is an opportunity to revive interest in traditional local dishes and also to experiment with more exotic flavours.

"We have lost many traditional recipes. This is a battle against the standardisation of our food," says parliamentarian Joseph Zisyadis, one of the organisers of the week, which runs until March 4.

Given the publicity surrounding mad cow disease and genetically modified crops, the Taste Week is also being seen as a reflection of the growing public concern about how food is produced.

"We hope people might change what they eat and the way they eat it," says fellow organiser Marc Rosset.

"This is not a battle against fast food, but we want to encourage people to appreciate slow food, and to rediscover good tastes" he told swissinfo.

The concept of the Taste Week started in France 11 years ago, and has grown into a highlight of the French culinary calendar, with over 800 events nationwide.

The first Swiss week will take place in a number of French-speaking cantons, although the bulk of the events will be in canton Vaud. The organisers hope the idea will spread to German- and Italian-speaking areas.

The events fall into a number of categories: Firstly, restaurants will be providing a traditional, slow-cooked meal as the dish of the day for SFr15, or a menu of more expensive dishes cooked along the same lines.

Butchers shops, bakeries, chocolate-makers and wine merchants will be offering free tastings. There will also be a wide range of events catering to schools.

"We cannot accept young people always eating junk food. They need to be educated about this tradition of tasty food, and about where the food comes from," Rosset says.

Among the more intriguing events are a menu where all the dishes are bitter, another based on "forgotten vegetables", fondue classes that are likely to surprise even a Swiss palate, and a "taste line" - a Lausanne trolleybus route with 14 different taste stops. The tickets for public transport in the city will have a secret recipe from Philippe Rochat, one of Switzerland's top chefs.

"It is important for people to know what dishes are typical of their region and to learn how to cook them themselves," Rosset says.

"But we are not just trying to promote local dishes. This is not Swiss Taste Week. We want people to discover lots of new flavours," he adds, pointing out that Greek, Turkish and Italian restaurants are taking part in the week.

There are, as Zisyadis says, no borders when it comes to taste: "Switzerland contains many culinary traditions. Many foreigners have brought exceptional flavours to this country and we should share them and celebrate them."

One important aspect of the week is that it will bring producers and consumers together, not least in an attempt to rebuild public confidence in the food they eat.

"The producers were very keen to have that contact with the customers. With things like Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease and pork containing hormones, it is very important for consumers to know how their food is produced," Rosset says.

Zisyadis agrees: "We have to go back to the source and use the raw materials - such as locally-produced vegetables. We want to make an inventory of our culinary traditions."

by Roy Probert


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