One of the reasons I went on my recent trip to Switzerland was to attend an event dear to my ancestors. The event was the Rüeblimahl held at the one of the medieval guilds of Bern, the Metzgern Zunft or in English the Butcher’s Guild. The de Buren/von Büren family has been a member of the guild since its arrival in Bern in 1326, so it was a great honor to represent the family again within its hallowed walls.
The Rüeblimahl is a meal that commemorates the aftermath of the Battle of Laupen in 1339 when hungry soldiers from the guild only found carrots to eat from a local field. While the feast may commorate the eating of carrots, do not be fooled, this is not the Vegetable guild, it is the Butcher’s guild, so meat, meat and more meat is on the menu for this occasion. In fact, when I visited Franz von Graffenried, the President of the Burgergemeinde Bern the afternoon before the event, he joked with me “You won’t be eating any carrots, that’s for sure.” and he added “I hope you don’t have anything planned that afternoon.” Well I did actually, my time was short in Bern, I figured the lunch couldn’t last all afternoon, could it?
Daniel Claude and myself in the Pig's corner. Thanks to Jürg Stauffer for the Photo.
I was greeted at 11:45 am by Daniel Claude the son of the President of the guild, Martin Sauerer, as well as fellow guild member Jürg Stauffer. They were both very kind and took me under their wing. They infomed me that I would be sitting with them in the Pig’s corner, a place traditionally reserved for hog butchers, but now occupied by the young members of the guild. We started to make small talk and when I told Daniel that I had an interview at 2:30 pm he said, “Oh, we won’t be done by then. Better make it 4 or 5 pm.” What? I was triple booked all afternoon. I was sure he was pulling my leg.
We started the festivities with a nice apperitif of Swiss white wine in the cellar and then moved into the dining hall. We were packed to the gills at three long tables addorned with guild artifacts and carrots, just for decoration.
We started with soup, introductions and speeches. The first speech was made by the President of the guild who after acknolwedging his many important guests, most from other local guilds, came to me. He said that a member of one of the oldest families in Bern and of the guild, a von Büren was with them today, and had also come from California for the event. He stopped speaking Bärn Dütsch (Swiss-German dialect of Bern) of which I know probably two words and spoke in French for my benefit saying that I was always welcome at the Butcher’s guild. I was obviously moved. There were more speeches as the wine flowed.
The second course was bone marrow and liver, and not just one plate mind you. The marrow on bread with salt was very tasty. Someone remarked that it didn’t matter how much wine we were all drinking since we were eating liver. The third course arrived with heaping mouds of beef, special sausages and green beans. The sausages were my favorite, simply outstanding. After a couple of helpings I realized that I had to meet a reporter from Swissinfo who was doing a story on me, a California-Swiss coming back to his roots. As the reporter and I walked around the old town I felt a deep connection to Bern, one that grows each time I come back.
After my appointments I came back at 5 pm for some eau-de-vie with those who were still there. Jürg Stauffer and I talked for a bit and then I headed on to Neuchâtel. I was treated with genuine warmth by all those I met and really felt like a member of the guild.
I hope to attend again next year, and this time I will stay for the duration, if only to have a couple more of those sausages.