Swissness unplugged. “Swiss” sells but is it Swiss?

Just because “Swiss” is on it, doesn’t mean “Swiss” is in it. There are legislation rules for “Made in Switzerland” and the Swiss cross. But, anything can still be called “Swiss”, it just doesn’t have the Swissness of “Made in Switzerland”.

Swissness legislation

The legislation was passed in 2013 and has been in effect since January 1, 2017. It indeed regulates to what degree something must be “Swiss” to be “Made in Switzerland” or wear the Swiss cross.

To make the grade, plant and animal agricultural produce need to be 100% domestic. For food products 80% must be sourced in Switzerland. Sounds easy enough but what about water? Just add 80% Swiss water to any other product and it is Swiss? Many, including Swiss beer brewers didn’t like that. A compromise was found and now the brewers are happy and the Swissness of beer has been upheld. Special provisions had to be made for things where the ingredients are not available in Switzerland. Have you seen coffee or chocolate beans grown in Switzerland?

Swiss watches have a Swissness category unto themselves. More than 60% of the production costs must originate in Switzerland. Also, the technical development of the watch along with at least half the movement must be made in Switzerland. Then, and only then will it be a “Swiss Watch”.

So, if “Made in Switzerland” is on it, it is in it, too. That is not necessarily true for other products with “Swiss” in their names.

Hot Chocolate “Swiss Miss”

Just add water. Most of the hot chocolate products in America use water. But what’s with the marshmallows? No Swiss I know adds marshmallows to their hot chocolate. Maybe I just don’t hang around with the right people or they don’t tell me everything.

The Swiss Miss hot chocolate is produced by an American company and the dried milk is from Wisconsin cows. Not that I have anything against cows from Wisconsin. But if neither the chocolate nor the milk product is from Switzerland why bother calling it Swiss? Obviously “Swiss Miss” conjures up Swiss Alps and Heidi and that sells.

My parents were over here in the winter once. I noticed that my dad went out of his way to order hot chocolate every chance he got. He just couldn’t get enough of it. I asked him why and he said “Now that is real hot chocolate! Made with milk and not water. It just tastes so much better.” We sent him home with some real Swiss hot chocolate powder to mix with milk.

Swiss Cake Rolls

These are a “Little Debbie” product, made by McKee Foods. Surprisingly, yes, the Swiss do make similar products. They are called “Roulade” which is French and means “to roll”. It can be either savory or sweet. You can buy both types at the store or make your own.

Unfortunately, these delights did not originate in Switzerland. Unlike “Ricola”, the Swiss did not invent them. It is possible that the “roulade” origins were in central Europe, Austria maybe.

The Swiss cake rolls are somewhat similar to the Swiss variety. Still, Swiss? I guess another case of “Swiss” sells.

Swiss Cheese

Ha! As if Switzerland only had one variety of cheese: Swiss. Wrong. Switzerland sells probably more than 450 different varieties. Most are made from cow’s milk but some are made from sheep or goat milk. They come in different textures: soft, semi-soft, hard and semi-hard. Each cheese has its own name.

What America knows as “Swiss Cheese” is known in Switzerland as “Emmentaler” cheese. This mild cheese originated in an area called “Emmental” in the Canton of Berne. The air holes in the cheese are its trademark.

When Ben was in high school in America a friend asked him how the holes got into the cheese. He was sure this person was pulling his leg and pretending not to know they were air bubbles. Ben played along and made up a story. It was about how Switzerland has no unemployment thanks to Swiss cheese. The workers drill the holes to make the characteristic cheese.

The next day this person was mad at Ben. He said that Ben had made a fool out of him. Ben was surprised and baffled, what was his friend talking about? In all seriousness he had told his family about the cheese-hole-drilling and they laughed at him! Ooops.

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