Every December, in Geneva, the city celebrates the Fête de l’Escalade to commemorate its historical military victory over the Duke of Savoy who, in 1602, launched a surprise night-attack on the unsuspecting city-state. To honour this event, there is an annual race and procession given by the Compagnie de 1602. They don stunning 17th century garb and march through the old town with horses, torches, and pipers. Men perform battle re-enactments, cannon-firings, and musketry demonstrations; women sell Escalade pins and plastic cups of mulled wine. The night ends with a fiery speech in the town center declaring Geneva’s enduring independence.
One of the more colourful characters of the Escalade celebrations is Mère Royaume–the semi-fictional cook who, as the folk history goes, was preparing vegetable soup in a large cauldron on the night of the Savoyard ambush. Seeing the approaching Savoyard soldiers attempting to scale the city walls, she roused the slumbering townsfolk, sent for help, and fended off the first attack by pouring her hearty soup–cauldron and all–down onto the approaching climbers. So the story goes. This little tale is why marzipan veggies in a chocolate pot have become one of the Escalade’s official treats.
For all of this clarion-calling spectacle, a memorable moment of last year was getting to watch a musketeer on his smoke break. Having just finished a 17th-century style musketry re-enactment, he lit one up in his horn-rimmed glasses and kind of just stared off into space. I imagine he was lost in a veggie-filled reverie.