Every year in Switzerland on August 1st, Swiss National Day, there’s a big tradition of the farmhouse brunch. This year, 350 farms all around this pint-sized country are opening their doors and barns for the annual shindig. One of our favourites is held at Hof von Allmen in Beatenberg high above Lake Thun at the von Allmen farm.
We’re not the only ones who love the brunch here – some 350 people book in and turn up for the feast. Herr von Allmen offers his beautifully spruced up barn and tons of trestle tables and benches, organised and provided by members of the village Trachtverein, the association that keeps alive the tradition of typical Swiss costume and traditional dances.
Here’s the drill: you make a booking (by phone or email), buy your ticket, hand it over and make for the long serving tables in the huge barn, set out among the (pristine) grass-cutting machines and within sight of the (similarly pristine) milking parlour. Then you grab a plate and move along the line to compose your brunch. There’s ham, sausages, eggs (over 200 cracked open each year), the obligatory Rösti (more than 100 kilos of spuds boiled, peeled, grated and freshly fried), hunks of fragrant alp cheese made from milk from the cows that graze the alpine pastures above the village each summer, and little dumpy Mutschli cheeses.
This being Switzerland, almost everything is home-grown or home-made. No self-respecting Beatenberg brunch provider would be seen dead sloping off to the local Migros for provisions. To go with the shiny golden Züpfe (braided milk bread) and stout loaves of Burebrot (farmers’ bread), there’s sweet butter and bilberry and apricot jam. Herbal teas are offered, sweetened with honey from local hives. Even the Birchermuesli is home-made.
Outside the barn under an awning the local Ländlermusik (country music) quartet strikes up, and familiar strains of piano accordeons and double bass ring out.
A couple of old boys sit out on the grass in the clear alpine sunlight, dressed in their Sunday best, smoking their pipes and setting the world to rights.
There’s nothing like a real August 1st Brunch on the Farm to get the full flavour of rural Switzerland. For a list of the participating farms for 2014, go to the Swiss Farmers website, select the region in Switzerland that’s closest to you and make your booking.