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.

Alimentarium, Vevey, Switzerland

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.

Alimentarium, Vevey, SwitzerlandAlimentarium, Vevey, Switzerland

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.

Alimentarium, Vevey, SwitzerlandAlimentarium, Vevey, Switzerland

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.”

Alimentarium, Vevey, SwitzerlandAlimentarium, Vevey, Switzerland

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.”

Alimentarium, Vevey, SwitzerlandAlimentarium, Vevey, Switzerland

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?

Alimentarium, Vevey, SwitzerlandAlimentarium, Vevey, Switzerland

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
Quai Perdonnet
1800 Vevey
Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 6pm

15 Responses to “The Big Fork Stays !”

  1. El says:

    Thanks for the explanation. It’s nice to understand the background behind the big fork. Any tribute to food works for me!

  2. VeggieGirl says:

    What a fun museum and great information!!

  3. Romy says:

    We’ll definitely check out the street artists’ festival tomorrow morning! And yes, more glasses for my collection, gotta have 2009 in the lineup, haha.

    Great post as usual – I’m amazed at how much material you can get out of just one day! 🙂

    Have a lovely weekend!

  4. Amanda says:

    Hi! Question about the museum – are the panels also in English? Because if it’s all in French, I’m out of luck.

  5. Kerrin says:

    Romy, oooh back to the market you go, with the the wine tasting and the festival – you guys are going to have such a great time! And yes, Vevey was just one day, but what a day it was!

    Amanda, everything there (or almost everything!) is in French, German and English. So don’t hesitate to go… and report back when you do!

  6. kelleyn says:

    I love the fork. I haven’t seen it, but I love it and can’t wait to see it someday. As to the museum I think this would be a place I would enjoy going to as well. I love all the old labels.

  7. Lani says:

    Your photography of the museum is awesome. I do love all the vintage signs and machinery that was used to make chocolate. Yes, I would love to visit this little town that is filled with so much. Your photography makes it all pop right out of the computer…..quick question… they give you free samples of Nestle chocolate????

  8. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    You must take me here! I love it. My first job was in food packaging design, in London. I worked on big brands like Masterfoods and Colman’s. I just love all this stuff, especially vintage. You don’t even want to get me started on my collection of tins. Love vintage food tins. Or just food tins. Came back from my trip last year with practically a suitcase full – from Fauchon, Hershey, Foucher…. I am going to Tasmania and there is a Cadbury factory there. Wonder if they have cool stuff like that there, too? Okay, put this on the itinerary for when I visit you one day! 🙂

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  10. Scribetrotter says:

    This sounds like great fun! I agree about the fork – this is a landmark that’s made to attract (a bit like the Jet d’Eau in Geneve?) I can easily imagine the Vaudois bureaucrats locked up in their offices debating the pros and cons of the fork… c’est pas tres Suisse… c’est pas une fourchette a fondue…

    I love it! And it IS new – at least for me – I haven’t been to Vevey since the late 80s so I’ll be sure to take a hop over to that yummy museum – history AND food? Can’t miss that.

  11. Kerrin says:

    Lani, haha, excellent question! You would think that Nestle chocolate would be free-flowing. But nope. The only chocolate samples were if you do a computer quiz on describing the texture of chocolate when you taste it. So you get a tiny little Cailler mini. Better than nothing I suppose!

    Julia, ok, the Alimentarium is on the list for your trip to Switzerland. Done. I’m ready to go back again already! And how cool to have worked in food packaging design. I too am just crazy for old labels, vintage tins – and of course have quite a collection of the latter, just like you, go figure! 😉 As for your trip to Tasmania, sounds pretty awesome to me. Of course you’ll have to hit up the Cadbury factory, just be sure to bring an empty suitcase with you! haha!

    Scribetrotter, love your image of the Vaudois officials debating… the fork! Too funny indeed. And YES, a fondue fork, how funny would that have been?! Enjoy Vevey when you get there – food, history and the fork. Be sure to report back when you do… !

  12. Anja says:

    Once I was in Vevey and I love this romantic city. I’ve really great remembership to this city. Your photos are great and also the information about the museum, I’ve not been to this museum. But I hope to visit Vevey (and this museum) soon. Wonderful hint.

  13. Baron's Life says:

    This captures the essence of everything…so many details, info on the museum. That’s an amazing Fork…great post

  14. Amy @ The Q Family says:

    I’m glad they keep the Fork. I wouldn’t be able to resist taking some tourist pose with the fork as well. Now you got me thinking what kind of pose do I want when I visit there. 🙂

  15. Olympus Tours says:

    Beautiful and interesting museun. There are a lot of trade brands that we keep in our memory because they’ve marked our lives since our childhood. Very good iniciative for new generations know the old brands and the quiality of desing. We hope somebody make something like this in some Cancun resorts. Thank you.

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