When asked the question “what happened in Switzerland in 1929?” a discerning trivia buff might be primed to answer with: "the second Geneva Convention, of course.” In July 1929, delegates from 37 countries gathered in Geneva to agree on terms for the treatment of prisoners of war. Pretty important stuff that paved the way for humanitarian protections in place today.
One month earlier, though, another (perhaps even more important) gathering took place just across the lake in the Swiss city of Lausanne. On June 7th, bakers from around the world met for the International Bakery and Pastry Exhibition, a ten-day dedication to the art of the bake.
The exhibition was a part of a larger event, “Le Comptoir Suisse” (The Swiss Counter), an annual fair highlighting Swiss culture, craft and culinary prowess. Information on the 1929 fair is sparse, but the book “Exposer pour exporter - culture visuelle et expansion commerciale en Suiss” does suggest that 1929’s fair was unique in one way:
“In 1929, the Swiss counter ... hosted the visit of two American star actors, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, testifying to the opening of the event to the general public and the willingness of its organizers to reconnect with the tradition of mass entertainment.”
One artifact from the 1929 Swiss Counter that does still exist is this incredible poster, made by Swiss artist Jacomo Müller. Müller, a prolific and talented printmaker from Basel, created the poster to build excitement for the baking and pastry exhibition.
A seemingly exhausted (or maybe stressed) baker is seen running through The Swiss Counter (it was an outdoor event in 1929), carrying a large loaf of bread (perhaps a 3 kilo boule) in one hand, and what I believe to be an architectural cake made in the shape of a castle in the other hand, carefully balanced on a tray. I can't help but focus on his expression — why is he in distress?!
The other detail I keep coming back to is the pants. Big and baggy, those checkerboard-print chef pants are beyond perfect for a long day in the bakery. You better believe I tracked a pair down from one of my favorite brands, Cookman — how could I not order these? They’re functional and sartorial! I will absolutely be baking the next batch of crackers in them.