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A few weeks ago my kids exclaimed, “How did you pass your Swiss test if you don’t know DAR-VIDA?” Unbeknownst to me DAR-VIDA crackers are the true litmus test of being Swiss. It’s the code word that separates Swiss Raised from Swiss Immigrated. This got me thinking about other historically artisanal Swiss products that have become run-of-the mill grocery store products.


Dar-VidaNo sooner did I learn the term DAR-VIDA, a woman in the park explained how she soaks DAR-VIDA in milk for her dog. It seems that DAR-VIDA is a generic term for healthy crackers.

These whole grain crackers date back to 1937 and quickly became popular in mountaineering and hiking circles because they don’t crumble. I decided to challenge this theory with a 1,000 meter ascent in Obwalden and look, my cracker is in one piece!


Ovomaltine / Olvatine

imageYou probably know this powdered milk-flavoring drink. First introduced in 1904 in the city of Berne, the name was Ovomaltine for the latin words egg and malt which were the original ingredients. When the product was exported to Britain in 1909 a misspelling on the trademark registration shortened the name to Ovaltine.

It use to be that parents insisted their children drink Ovamaltine instead of powdered hot chocolate. The malt and whey (no sugar in the Swiss product) is a healthy alternative to cocoa and sugar.



Only Switzerland could come up with a soft drink developed from whey, the liquid that remains after milk has been curdled and strained. Developed in 1952 Rivella contains lactic acid, protein, vitamins and minerals. Not bad as long as you aren’t lactose intolerant.



Back in 1932, a master brewer recycled his yeast and mixed it with carrots and onions thus creating Cenovis. Apparently it is a paste similar to Marmite and Vegemite. High in Vitamin B, the company says it was part of the Swiss military rations of 1955.  To me Cenovis tastes like eating a cube of vegetable bouillon. I suppose that is why it is used to flavor soups, salads, sausage, and dips; though according to their marketing pictures children should spread it on their “tartine,” or open-faced sandwich.

Are there culinary delights you would add to this list of lesser known typical Swiss foods?

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland.  If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/