Switzerland's 'Röstigraben', a Curious Culinary and Cultural Divide
How a farmer's breakfast morphed into the symbol of a language border
Switzerland is predominantly German-speaking, but far from completely so. The alpine confederation is officially quadrilingual: German (64%), French (20%), Italian (7%) and Romansh (0.5%). As the latter two languages are very minoritary, linguistic tension does tend to be a binary thing, between Deutschschweiz – a word only a germanophone could pronounce – and la Romandie, signifying the Swiss French west of the country.
The Romands call the ‘other’ side la Suisse alémannique and the Schweizerdeutsche call the francophone part of their country Welschschweiz (the root word being a Germanic term for ‘stranger’, identical to the one in ‘Wales’ and ‘Wallonia’).
The language border dividing these two areas is known jestingly as the Röstigraben (in German) or the rideau de rösti (in French). A Graben is a ditch and a rideau is a curtain, so you get the idea of separation – but what a Rösti is and why it is significant, requires a bit more explanation.
This dish is made mainly by frying grated potatoes in a pan. It was formerly eaten as breakfast by farmers in the (German-speaking) Bern canton. The original conceit of the Röstigraben was that it constituted the western limit of the German Swiss culture, beyond which people spoke (and ate) differently.
The Rösti has gained popularity as a side dish all over Switzerland, but the language and cultural differences persist. The French Swiss voters have traditionally been less averse of the international community (including potential EU membership) and more prone to support a more active role for the federal government. Recently, voting trends in French and German Switzerland have tended to converge more.
The Röstigraben isn’t the only gastronomically defined cultural border in central Europe. The northern and southern halves of Germany are separated by what is called the Weisswurstäquator – the white sausage equator, after a favourite dish in Bavaria that’s rarely eaten in the north (see #569).
The book cover used here shows a picture of a very literal Röstigraben – a Switzerland-shaped Rösti broken in two exactly where the language border runs. That the ditch wasn’t too hard to cross, is apparent by the author's French forename and German surname. More on the book here.
Strange Maps #257
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Researchers have just discovered the remains of a hybrid human.
90,000 years ago, a young girl lived in a cave in the Altai mountains in southern Siberia. Her life was short; she died in her early teens, but she stands at a unique point in human evolution. She is the first known hybrid of two different kinds of ancient humans: the Neanderthals and the Denisovans.
These thought leaders, founders, and entrepreneurs are propelling the kind of future we want to be a part of.
- The tech industry may be dominated by men in terms of numbers, but there are lots of brilliant women in leadership positions that are changing the landscape.
- The women on this list are founders of companies dedicated to teaching girls to code, innovators in the fields of AI, VR, and machine learning, leading tech writers and podcasters, and CEOs of companies like YouTube and Project Include.
- This list is by no means all-encompassing. There are many more influential women in tech that you should seek out and follow.
Most said they want to act on their desire someday. But do open relationships actually work?
- The study involved 822 Americans who were in monogamous relationships at the time.
- Participants answered questions about their personalities, sexual fantasies, and intentions to act on those fantasies.
- Research suggests practicing consent, comfort, and communication makes open relationships more likely to succeed.
Consensual non-monogamy fantasies<p>For the new study, published in <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-020-01788-7" target="_blank">Archives of Sexual Behavior</a>, researchers asked 822 people in monogamous relationships to:</p><ul><li>Describe their favorite sexual fantasy, defined as "mental images you have while you are awake that you find to be sexually arousing or erotic."</li><li>Select which themes apply to that fantasy, such as having sex with multiple people at the same time, experimenting with taboos, or engaging in a sexually open relationship.</li><li>Answer whether they intended to carry out these fantasies, and discuss them with their partner.</li><li>Complete assessments on relationship satisfaction, erotophilia and personality, as measured by the Big Five Personality inventory.</li></ul><p>The results showed that 32.6 percent of participants said being part of a sexually open relationship was "part of their favorite sexual fantasy of all time." More surprising is that, of that one-third, 80 percent said they want to act on this fantasy in the future.</p>
Pretzelpaws via Wikipedia Commons<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The present research confirms the important distinction between sexual fantasy and sexual desire in that not everyone wanted to act on their favorite sexual fantasy of all time," study author Justin J. Lehmiller told <a href="https://www.psypost.org/2020/09/one-third-of-people-in-monogamous-relationships-fantasize-about-being-in-some-type-of-open-relationship-study-suggests-58102" target="_blank">PsyPost</a>. "This suggests that fantasies may serve different functions for different people."</p><p>Even though most participants said they want to act out their fantasy in the future, far fewer reported acting out sexual fantasies in the past. Other findings included:</p><ul><li>Men were more likely to fantasize about CNMRs.</li><li>So were people who scored high in <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erotophilia#:~:text=Erotophilia%20is%20a%20personality%20trait,ranging%20from%20erotophobia%20to%20erotophilia." target="_blank">erotophilia</a> and sociosexual orientation.</li><li>The psychological predictors of fantasizing about CNMRs differed from predictors about infidelity fantasies.</li></ul>
Do open relationships work?<p>A <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00224499.2019.1669133" target="_blank">2019 study</a> from psychologists at the University of Rochester suggests it <em>is </em>possible<em>, </em>but especially when both partners practice a trio of behaviors: consent, communication, and comfort — or, the Triple-C Model.<br></p>But the study also suggests not all forms of open relationships are equally viable. For example, people in one-sided CNMRs — where one partner stays monogamous, the other seeks outside sexual relationships — were nearly three times more dissatisfied in their relationships than the monogamous group <em>and </em>the consensual non-monogamous group.
The results of this study showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence, declining in early adulthood and then climbing back up again into one's early 30s.