Posted by: oysterculture | May 14, 2009

Toblerone – a chocolate replica of a national treasure

who can resist?
who can resist?

You see that distinctive beige triangular box and immediately you just know its going to be good, and unless you have the will power of Lance Armstrong, you know  you are not going to stop with one square, err triangle portion, but settle in for the long haul.  You know what I am talking about, resistance is futile… that all around unique candy bar – Toblerone.  Not only is it’s shape unlike any other chocolate bar, but there is no confusing its flavor.  Toblerone is a Swiss chocolate bar that is immediately recognizable because of its unique shape and packaging.  I’ve been reading a lot about marketing strategy lately, and it struck me as a classic example of a marketing success story – if you just have the box, and hide the name, everyone knows what can be found within; if you do a blind taste test, folks familiar with the flavor can tell you the candy.

Name

“Toblerone” is a play on the names “Tobler” + “Torrone“, the Italian word for honey and almond nougat.  Tobler being the surname of the company founder.

Shape

The official version states that the chocolate bar owes its triangular shape to the famous Swiss Mountains of The Matterhorn.  The unofficial version is that on Theodore Tobler’s frequent business trips to Paris, he visited the shows at the Folies Bergères.  The shows’ finale featured the red and beige clad dancers forming a human pyramid, was the inspiration for his “ah-ha” moment.   

Regardless of its genesis, this brilliant marketing idea, and the Toblerone name were quickly patented, making the Toblerone chocolate bar the first chocolate product to have this distinction.  Tobler moved quickly and in 1909 also registered Toblerone as a brand name in Switzerland.

Switzerland

So what of this country that produced this wonderful sweet?    Switzerland is a country of incredible beauty, and diversity brought on in part in its quest for neutrality and independence.  The time I spent there only stoked my desire for further exploration.  The

(photo from historichotelsofeurope)

(photo from historichotelsofeurope)

country, thanks to its prime location, enjoys tremendous natural resources and beauty.  Its a land of multiple personalities, and each one is worth knowing.  In some respects, it is a composite of Europe with its French, Italian and Germany cultural regions.  Not one, but four languages are officially spoken:  French, German, Italian and Romansh.  Switzerland is further divided into 26 cantons, each with their own constitution, legislature, government and courts.  Which leads me to my next observation…

Switzerland’s strong goal towards neutrality makes for some challenging business situations, especially for those not familiar with its attributes.  I worked in Switzerland some years ago, and was responsible for the construction of a telecom site that required hiring contractors in construction, electrical, plumbing, and the like.  I discovered that contractors must be hired locally – I had hoped to piggyback of the success of a colleague and hire the contractors he worked with in Geneva (my project was in Zurich).  To my chagrin, I could not make that hire.  Each city has its own building codes – so no regulations are governed at the national level.  To find an expert in the building codes, local contractors are about the only option, and this sort of local expertise extends beyond business into the realm of food.   

A sampling of cuisine (by region)

When most people think of Swiss food, what immediately springs to mind are images of cheese and chocolate. Many Swiss cheeses  are justly famous – take for example Emmental cheese, Gruyère, Vacherin, and Appenzeller.  Of course with that wonderful ingredient, inspiration strikes and dishes such as are fondue and raclette are developed.  Swiss chocolate covers the gamut as well with: Lindt, Suchard, Cailler, Sprungli, well you get the idea.  The bulk of what is produced and shared with the world so when you walk into your grocer you might be able to take home a bit of Switzerland.

Dishes from the French part of Switzerland

Cantons include Geneva and Vaude.

Swiss fondue (photo from huubpages.com)

Swiss fondue (photo from huubpages.com)

 

Papet vaudois is very filling as a pork sausage, leek and potato hotpot.  ‘Papet vaudois’, leeks with potatoes, served with Saucisson (sausage)/

Fondue is probably the most famous Swiss dish. Fondue is made out of melted cheese. It is eaten by dipping small pieces of bread or potatoes in the melted cheese.

Raclette is a variation of fondue, and is melted cheese dribbled over potatoes, served with small gherkins or pickles, pickled onions etc. 

Tarts and quiches are also traditional Swiss dishes. Tarts in particular are made with all sorts of toppings, from sweet apple to onion.

Cervelas (made of beef and pork) is considered the national sausage, and is popular throughout Switzerland – to the tune of over 160 million links consumed annually.

 

Dishes from the German part of Switzerland
Rösti: This simple dish, similar to hash browns, is a Swiss German favorite. It has given its name to the “Rösti ditch”, the cultural demarcation between the German and French regions of Switzerland – but do not let that fool you, it is consumed with gusto even in the French      

Unteraargletscher, Switzerland (photo from adventurelogger.blogspot.com

Unteraargletscher, Switzerland (photo from adventurelogger.blogspot.com

speaking cantons of Switzerland.  Like hasbrowns, you might find a couple of fried eggs nestled on top. Originally considered a breakfast staple, it is now overlooked thanks to muesli, which is commonly eaten for breakfast and in Switzerland answers to Birchermüesli.  

Züri gschnätzeltes: Thin strips of veal with mushrooms in a cream sauce and served with rösti.

Meat cuts, Zürich style, are served with Rösti.

Älplermagronen: (Alpine herdsman’s macaroni) is a frugal one pot meal using ingredients found in the herdsmen’s alpine cottages: macaroni, potatoes, onions, bacon, and melted cheese. Traditionally Älplermagronen is served with applesauce rather than vegetables or salad. 

 

Dishes from the Italian part of Switzerland

The Ticino canton is the only Italian speaking canton in Switzerland, and as you can imagine pizza and pasta are very popular, both here and around Switzerland.  It is almost entirely surrounded by Italy, hence the heavy influence, as a result the

hillside view of Ticino (photo from etravel.com)

hillside view of Ticino (photo from etravel.com)

predominate language is Italian but not without a twist.  Given the French and German presence in Switzerland some of their words have been assimilated into the local dialect.

Polenta: For centuries polenta was regarded as a meal for the poor. While corn was introduced back in the 17th century, it took another 200 years before polenta – initially made with flour added, only later of pure cornmeal – became a staple of the area.

Saffron Risotto: A typical dish from Ticino

In this region, one will finds a restaurant unique to the region, called a grotto, so you will see Grotto Ticinese. This restaurant is a rustic eatery, offering traditional food ranging from pasta to homemade meat specialties. Popular dishes include artisanal sausages called Luganighe and Luganighetta.   Authentic grottoes are old wine caves repurposed into restaurants, and commonly found around forests and built against a rocky background. Typically, the facade is granite blocks and the outside tables and benches are made of the same material.  Grottoes are popular with locals and tourists alike.  

 

Dishes from the Graubünden Canton in Switzerland

This canton borders Liechtenstein and Austria, with only one third of its land available for use, the rest is forests and mountains.  Some corn and chestnut farming takes place, along with some wine production around the capital.

Zurich (photo from hotelclub.com)

Zurich (photo from hotelclub.com)

 

Chur Meat Pie: A popular dish from Graubünden in south eastern Switzerland.  Chur is the capital of this canton.

Graubünden Barley Soup: The famous soup from Graubünden

Pizokel with cabbage: Pizokel were eaten in a wide variety of ways. In some places when eaten by themselves they are known in Romansh as “bizochels bluts”, or “bald pizokel”. If someone leaves a small amount of any kind of food on the serving dish for politeness sake, in the Engadine this is called “far sco quel dal bizoccal”, meaning “leaving the last pizokel”.

Bündner Nusstorte: a honey and nut tart.

Bündnerfleisch: a dried-beef specialty

 

The diversty is part of what makes the Swiss, well Swiss.  They say that what is important is “unity not uniformity” and when the results this delicious and delightful, I think they’re on to something. 

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Responses

  1. I love Toblerone!! When I was a kid, we used to go on holiday to Switserland for about 8 years!
    We bought the larger packages!! Then you had really large pieces!! Yum! I have made Toblerone mosse before: yummie! Thanks for bringing back such yummie memories!!

  2. OMG…I used to devour Toblerone as a kid. I still love it. I always bring home a bunch to the Philippines because my relatives go gaga over it. LOL And Fondue…that’s a like the funnest meal right there.

    I would love the Switzerland on day. The culture is so fascinating. At least now when I do go, I’ll have a little better understanding thanks to you. =)

  3. Toblerones are so great. My friends named their beagle Toblerone! Lovely photos of Switzerland. One more place I would love to visit.

  4. My dad traveled abroad a lot when I was little and he *never* failed to bring home Toblerone. I think any attempt to resist the triangle candy is an exercise in futility. When I encounter a Toblerone, my policy is to just drop my weapon and surrender knowing I’m not going to win anyway. Oh, and what a sweet surrender.

    Great info on Switzerland, LouAnn. Always enlightening. Thank you. 🙂

  5. I love Toblerone too! How wonderful to learn more about Switzerland, I would love to visit there some day!

  6. You’ve put it in my head to go out and try to find some Toblerone tomorrow. And that’s a good thing, even if I have to double my afternoon exercise. I’ve long wanted to visit Switzerland, and I regret not having done so earlier in my life. Everything I’ve ever heard of the country is great, particularly its natural beauty. I had no idea that you lived there for some time and were in charge of the construction of a telecom site. Wow! And thanks for the list of regional Swiss cuisine. Much of it is unfamiliar to me, and I’m interested in exploring it. I guess I’ll just have to get myself over there! Thanks for another great post!

  7. Toblerone is no joke in Switzerland. When we were living in Geneva I frequented the downtown Manor (upscale grocery store in a department store) and they had a toberlone so large it came up to my shoulder!

    The town of Gruyere is pretty neat. Cheesemaking in the valley and then you can hike up to the old town where there’s a castle. Dairy cows roaming around along the way, of course.

    Raclette is my favorite. The special raclette machines they use to heat the wheel of cheese makes an awesome open-faced grilled cheese.

  8. Gastroanthropologist – I agree, Toblerone is serious stuff in Switzerland. I saw a similar sized candy and would love to have brought it back to the States for the novelty factor, but I would have had to buy a suitcase dedicated to the candy bar, and that I could not justify.

    I too love raclette, and I think I love the whole ritual and machines involved – its a complete experience.

    Sapuce – If you never had a Toblerone – you have to try it at least once. Don’t blame me if you get hooked. I can appreciate the exercise concerns, but now I hope you know how I feel when I stop by your blog as I feel compelled to try all the interesting foods you introduce and I just know I have to bump up my exercise routine Ah the sacrifices we make =)

    Shesimmers – amen sister – resistance is futile!

    Bread=Butter – I agree, fondue is one of my favorite treats, and its probably because I do not have it that often, so when I do its an experience. Of course, I’m all for the other modifications – chocolate fondue, etc.

    Sophie – a Toblerone mousse? – I am almost afraid to ask about that one – it sounds incredible!

  9. Sapuche – Forgot to add, about my working in Switzerland – it was an incredible interesting experience. I was actually responsible for building the company’s European network and focus on some major builds, including the one in Zurich and another in London. I had a great time jumping all over the place, although there were a few nights I woke up and for the life of me forgot where I was which is very disconcerting. Having the opportunity to work in another country and manage people from different cultures, where you are the odd one out, is such an eye opening opportunity. You really come away with a new perspective.

    My problem, especially based on my experience, if I want to go back to Switzerland, which I do, its trying to pick a region, as they are all so diverse. Sometimes the more you know, the tougher it is.

  10. Believe it or not, my husband loves to scream the name of this magical chocolate. He says that he loves the rhythm of the letters in “toblerone” and its prononciation. I’m a big fan of it, but it’s so expensive here. Thank you for informing us more about Switzerland.

  11. hee hee….switzerland deserves kudos, just for that toblerone alone! now I see there are more to chocolate to Switzerland!

  12. Toblerone! The bigger the better. I grew up in Germany, and Switzerland wasn’t too far away to travel for some Toblerone and Suchard hot chocolate! Great post about Switzerland too…I love roesti (sorry I can’t find the umlaut key on my keyboard!).

  13. I can imagine how strange it would be to wake up and not know where you are! I hope it wasn’t because the work was so stressful. If you get back to Switzerland, I wish you good luck picking a region. I’ve been in that situation before, too – the more options you know you have, the more difficult it is to choose between them. At least you know that most of your Swiss options are good, as it means you really can’t lose!

  14. I LOVE Toblerone. This actually reminds me I haven’t had any in quite awhile. Must go to the store NOW.

  15. Carolyn – I have to ask, are you going for the classic or one of the other 4 flavors out there? What does the food writer pick? 😉

  16. “Resistance is futile”
    I loved Toblerone so much as a kid, I was shocked to find out that hubby Kris never had it before. He’s always been a dark chocolate snob I guess. I especially love the gigantic toblerones that you can barely break apart.

    Reading this post made me so hungry. All I can think of now is melted gruyere.

  17. Phyllis – I should have named the post “Resistance is Futile” much more apt.


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