Let me tell you a story.
It’s a story that has a bit of drama in it and some heartbreak.
It takes place in one of the most scenic locations in the world and champions the power of art.
The good thing though, and I’ll tell this right now to keep your anxiety at bay, is that in the end, it all works out. Only, just like in life, where victory befriends one, there is always someone who gets left behind, forgotten. But that’s how the world is, and there’s nothing that can be done about it.
There once was a utensil. It was one that you and I use in our daily lives, but this one was a little different, this one was special.
To begin with, it was huge, the kind that the BFG would maybe use, and then there was this little problem of it being “stuck”.
I say it was a problem, but it really wasn’t, because the place where this utensil was stuck was prime property. It had views to itself that many would pay millions for and do. So, it stood there, taking in the sights along with the appreciation it received from everyone that came to see it.
The Fork, sticking out from the depths of Lac Léman looks like a shiny stick from a distance, off which, the Sun sometimes reflects to blind the viewer for a few seconds. Walk a little closer, and the utensil slowly starts to take form.
8 meters of stainless steel shininess, designed by Jean-Pierre Zaugg and placed close to the already famous statue of Charlie Chaplin in Vevey, the world first got to witness it in February of 1995, to commemorate the Alimentarium’s (Food Museum) Tenth Anniversary. The Fork was to remain standing for a year.
As is the case with most art, there comes a time when it must move on, to another house, a new location, in new hands, and the same happened with the Fork which then found itself in the gardens of a nearby cutlery factory.
When I visited Vevey sometime in 2003-2004, there was no mention of the Fork. Chaplin’s statue was the high point of the lakeside walk. The Fork had become a long forgotten memory. One might think that being in the cutlery factory, the Fork was happier, in touch with its kinship, but unbeknownst to the casual tourist, the Fork had an innate desire to return to its place in the lake. Anyone with a sane mind would.
As luck would have it, in the year 2007, the Fork returned, albeit temporarily, once again as part of an exhibition. This time though, there was a change. It seems the distance and separation from the Fork had had an emotional effect on the locals too. In simple terms, they missed having the fork, and a petition was filed, voting conducted, and the people of Vevey were reunited with the fork, this time permanently.
The Fork is now a talking point that it always desired to be, a place for visitors to “Ooooh” and “Aaaah”, smile, and click a few photos. Its location makes it perfect for dramatically scenic photographs. The Fork, in my wild imagination, loves this rush of tourists and locals, witnessed partly because of Chaplin’s statue. The Fork livens up the boardwalk and standing there, in its majestic pose, wonders about all the places around the world it is talked about.
And then there are the chairs, little white chairs, like birds perched on rocks, which sideline the lake and make for a beautiful place to sit back, relax, and take in the spectacular views, adding to the quirkiness all around in this little part of the town.
And so everyone lived happily ever after…
Or so you would think.
Now, while the fork has its glory back, and is in the spotlight for being the tallest Fork in the whole wide world according to the Guinness Book of World Records, there is a utensil that remains unappreciated and often goes unnoticed.
It’s right there, also next to the Chaplin statue, close to the Alimentarium, very much like the Fork, and yet you’re more than likely to miss it because you are too busy looking at the more vertical wonders to even bother seeing the flat and subtle Spoon.
Yes, the poor old Spoon gets trampled upon unnoticed considering it is engraved in the sidewalk just outside the Alimentarium. But then, that’s how life is and for the very few that do notice the Spoon, its a little surprise that they cherish alongside the memory of the Fork.
The Alimentarium, on the other hand, is beautiful, recently renovated, food museum that incorporates activities and information to educate its visitors. Keeping in tune with the Swiss culture of museums – they really have a lot of them – the Alimentarium’s location next to the lake and the importance it gives to all aspects of food makes it a truly unique museum. It is not only exquisitely presented but also provides the right kind of knowledge – about the history of food, dishes from around the world, or the way it interacts with our body – in a fun, visual, and hands-on manner.
Now, if food is the way to your heart like it is to mine, and just learning about it isn’t enough, the sidewalk in Vevey is lined with quaint cafes and restaurants that make for a perfect lunch or dinner setting (there’s one inside the Alimentarium too). Our stop at Le Marina that day was the kind of delightful meal that isn’t forgotten easily; crepes and cheesecake mixed with gentle conversations, children playing in the garden next door, it was a hearty mixture of nostalgia, local stories, and plans for the future.
However, if literary knowledge is what floats your boat, know this; Lord Byron once sailed in these very waters on the way to Montreux’s Chateau du Chillon, as did Mary Shelly around the time she wrote Frankenstein. But that’s for another time because literature and Vevey have a long and eventful history. The great Rousseau stayed here for a while, but my interest was in Hotel du Lac, the residence that forms the basis of Anita Brookner’s Booker Award-winning novel of the same name, which is just a short walk further down from the Fork.
And that’s the story of the Fork (and the Spoon) that found their way in this quaint little town of Switzerland filled with so much warmth and beauty that all you have to do is visit it, to write your very own story.