The Big Fork Stays !
It’s not every day you see a 26 foot (8 meter) tall fork sticking out of a lake. I know you’re all curious to know the story after all. So here it is…
The fork went up in 1995 to mark the 10th anniversary of the Alimentarium – Musée de l’Alimentation, Vevey’s Food Museum. (Aha, that’s the reason I had Vevey high on my list! But more on the museum in a minute.) A Swiss artist created it as a temporary exhibit, and still laughs to this day about the years of controversy it created. Instead of one year, it came down in 1997 for “aesthetic reasons.” Ten years went by until up again it went for a temporary exhibit at the Alimentarium on cutlery (“Couverts découverts“). Well apparently the people of Vevey had grown to love their gigantic fork, and it practically became a public symbol. Following petitions, Vaud authorities finally signed papers in 2008 declaring the fork stays! Permanently.
Now back to the museum, a Nestlé Foundation. It is a truly excellent place to spend an hour, two hours, or easily 3 or 4 – for children and adults alike. The beautiful building itself was the Nestlé headquarters from 1936 until 1985, when the museum opened its doors. It’s highly interactive, with three floors and tons of panels to read, objects to look at, computers quizzes to play, and other activities to do. Test your accuracy at identifying different aromas or tastes, or run inside a floor-to-ceiling wheel to gauge your metabolism. (I kind of felt like a hamster while doing it.) Plus plenty of Nestlé’s vintage packaging and ad campaigns to see. I absolutely love that kind of stuff, so I was in pure heaven in front of the wall in the photo above, and while admiring the old vending machine and chocolate bar wrappers.
You can learn an awful lot about nutrition and the body, about food from around the world and how it has evolved, about the history of agriculture and how we went from that to the supermarket. There’s a kitchen with themed demonstrations, in which was another wall I found myself staring at (below left). Cooking utensils from all different countries, each with an explanation on where and when it’s from, and how the food was prepared during that time period. It’s all fascinating. And every item in that entire museum has text with it! In the upstairs room with blue and white striped walls (below right), be sure to pick up all those products, as each one has a story underneath.
There is a beautiful wood-paneled room upstairs too that you can’t miss, seeing that there is a huge object in the center that wouldn’t be out of place in a space museum or submarine parts garage! As of 1921 this was the office of the Nestlé & Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company. As for the apparatus, it’s a vacuum tank (evaporator) that was used in the Peter-Cailler Kohler chocolate factory in Orbe (Vaud canton) in the late 19th century. Sugared condensed milk was condensed in the tank a second time for the final production of milk chocolate. You can read how the entire process works too. Or go right up to the third floor where there are temporary exhibits. Until January 3, 2010, the theme is “Research & Food – A Dialogue.”
There is still so much more to the museum, but I’ll have to leave some surprises for you! One last piece of advice. Don’t miss the bookstore at the entrance. There’s an impressive selection, as well as discount bins with books from past exhibits. I grabbed a few for sure, including “De la Cuisine à l’Usine, les Débuts de l’Industrie Alimentaire en Suisse.”
And a bonus for those who can get to the old town of Vevey this weekend… It’s the 17th annual Festival des Artistes de Rue (Street Artists’ Festival) from Friday, August 21st to Sunday, August 23rd. So in addition to museums, the big market, Charlie Chaplin and the famous fork, you can also see fire eaters, magicians, acrobats, clowns, puppeteers and jugglers. Speaking of the fork again, you didn’t think I’d let you go without sharing one more photo, did you?
I really love that fork, and even had Olivier take some fun pictures of me in front of it – think tourist at the Leaning Tower of Pisa or at Paris’ Eiffel Tower! When we walked away, we noticed a crowd standing around, waiting to do just the same! It is a landmark now after all.
Alimentarium, Musée de l’Alimentation
Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 6pm