An annual hike on the first day of March through the canton of Neuchâtel, known as the Marche du Premier Mars, symbolizes the march taken by revolutionaries to overthrow the rule of a Prussien King and establish a democratic form of government in 1848. Of course, every holiday has its food traditions, and in Neuchâtel, the special dish is… tripe! I participated in the walk this year. While I didn’t eat any tripe—although I’ve identified some local restaurants where I can find it—I certainly took advantage and sampled other local foods along the route.
Marche du Premier Mars
Approximately 850 people participated in the 2016 Marche du Premier Mars. This included 180 Swiss soldiers. Participants could choose one of two routes, either starting at the Maison de l’Absinthe in Môtiers or at the Château de Monts in Le Locle. I opted for the 30-kilometer route from Môtiers. Before we started walking, I sampled a piece of Taillaule, a delicious brioche loaf at the absinthe museum. Then, I had some of the Swiss military chocolate provided by the soldiers at various stops for ravitaillement (refueling) along the way.
The Swiss military chocolate, which I really like, is a milk chocolate bar with crunchy corn flakes. It also contains cola extract with caffeine. From several sources, I’ve learned that Swiss military officers actually have a different chocolate bar made of a fine, dark chocolate, which I have yet to see. I also tried some crisp and slightly sweetened military biscuits. (As an aside, my friend told me about participating in a competition among his fellow soldiers. They tried to eat three of these biscuits in one minute without a drink. He said the first one is easy, but after that it’s much harder!).
For lunch, we sat in the Salle Communale in Rochefort. They served us a hearty meal of vegetable soup, thick slices of bread and cheese, and an apple. My friend treated me to a cold Boxer beer, and we continued on our hike until the Château. I had read beforehand that tripe was a traditional dish served for Neuchâtel’s independence day. While I hoped to try some at lunch, at the same time I felt a sense of relief at having avoided it.
Tripes à la Neuchâteloise
Tripe comes from a cow’s stomach. You’ll find it served at restaurants as Tripes à la Neuchâteloise around the time of Premier Mars in the canton of Neuchâtel. The tripe sold at supermarkets around town is typically pre-cooked for your convenience. If you’re using raw tripe, one of my Neuchâtel cookbooks (Neuchâtel à Table, Marcel North and Jacques Montandon) recommends cooking it first for about five hours in salted water.
Recipes for Tripes à la Neuchâteloise typically call for the pre-cooked tripe to be simmered in bouillon with either wine, vinegar or lemon juice. The usual accompaniments are potatoes, vinaigrette, mayonnaise, onions and capers. It seems like a lot of strong flavors to mask the taste and texture of the tripe.
However, since I haven’t tried it yet, I must keep an open mind! (Update: I finally had the chance to try tripe at Festin Neuchâtelois in 2017.)
Where to eat tripe:
If you want to taste Tripes à la Neuchâteloise, here are some restaurants in the canton of Neuchâtel where you can find it:
- Le Jura Brasserie, Neuchâtel – It has tripe on the menu generally from November to March.
- Festin Neuchâtelois, an event hosted by different restaurants throughout the canton of Neuchâtel in March. It features a feast of local food specialties.
Updated: December 29, 2022