• Deborah Kade

What do Sherlock Holmes and meringues have in common?

September 2, 2019

It was raining and very foggy, when I first awoke. Visibility was quite low. I couldn't see Schynige Platte never mind the Jungfrau or Mönch that greeted me yesterday.

So...what do you do on a rainy day? One option is to visit a museum. Unfortunately, today is Monday and most museums are closed on Mondays. I did see the Sherlock Holmes Museum would be open this afternoon,though.

Mondays are rest day or "ruhetag". Now you have learned a German word. Many restaurants and museums will be closed.

What do Sherlock Holmes and meringues have in common?

If you guessed the Swiss town of Meiringen, you would be correct.

Meiringen is famous for the nearby Reichenbach Falls, a spectacular waterfall that was the setting for the final showdown between Sir Artur Conan Doyle's fictional detective Sherlock Homles and his nemesis Professor Moriarty. The village is also known for its claim to have been the place where the meringue was first created.

In one of the series most iconic moments, Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty struggle with one another atop a waterfall. The waterfall in question? The Reichenbach Falls, which just so happen to overlook Meiringen. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the character, was impressed by the waterfalls during a holiday in Switzerland and decided to make them the scene of Holmes suspected death in his story “The Final Problem”.

Located near the center of town by a statue to the detective, the Sherlock Holmes Museum is held inside the aptly named English Church.

The museum hosts exhibits that authentically examine the character, the author and their era, as well as a reconstruction of the interior from 221B Baker Street based off the stories.

The lamp is authentic to that year. The cloth shade is a reproduction.

It’s interesting to note that the room has been purposely arranged to look as if Holmes and Watson had left only moments ago. It seems as if pipe smoke should still be lingering in the air. Looking at the scattered newspapers, books, and teacups, one can imagine the detective springing up from his chair, hot on the heels of a suspect or following a new lead. The carefully curated disarray suggests an unknown narrative, a new mystery for us to imagine.

"The Meiringen Museum claims to have the largest collection of Holmes ephemera, as well as the most accurate reproduction of the famed sitting room, reconstructed by Tony Howlett, former President of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, and architect John Reid. Its windows are authentic to the era, made in London and shipped to Switzerland; the wallpaper is designed after an 1890's pattern and was bought on High Street in London; the fireplace, oil lamps, and other Holmesian paraphernalia are all authentic Victorian antiques."

Reichenbach Falls

The Reichenbach Falls are a waterfall cascade of seven steps on the stream called Rychenbach. They drop over a total change of altitude of about 250 meters (820 ft). At 110 meters (360 ft), of which the Grand Reichenbach Fall the upper one, is by far the largest one and one of the higher waterfalls in the Alps and among the forty highest in Switzerland. The Rychenbach loses 290 meters (950 ft) of height from the top of the falls to the valley floor of the Haslital. The falls are reached by way of a funicular.

Meiringen’s other claim to fame is quite a big one, especially if you have with a sweet tooth. Meiringen is believed to be the birthplace of the meringue and they hold that honor and distinction quite dearly. Even just the similarity of the two words Meiringen and meringue make it a believable claim, right?

You can have one even if you are diabetic.

Meringue is a type of dessert or candy, often associated with Italian, French, and Swiss cuisine, traditionally made from whipped egg whites and sugar, and occasionally an acidic ingredient such as lemon, vinegar, or cream of tartar. A binding agent such as salt, corn starch, or gelatin may also be added to the eggs.

It is easy to tell which tea rooms and restaurants make meringues.

Meringues are light, airy and sweet confections. Homemade meringues are often chewy and soft with a crisp exterior, while many commercial meringues are crisp throughout.

Meringues were traditionally shaped between two large spoons, as they are generally at home today. Meringue piped through a pastry bag was introduced by Antonin Carême.

There are several types of meringues: Italian, French and Swiss

Italian meringue

The most stable of all the meringues, this is made with a sugar syrup that has been heated to the soft-ball stage (236°F to 240°F). The hot sugar syrup is gradually beaten into the egg whites after soft peaks have formed and then whipped to firm glossy peaks. Its stability and smooth texture make it great for egg white butter creams and mousses.

French meringue

The French meringue is known as the basic meringue. This uncooked meringue is the one most people are familiar with. The sugar is gradually beaten into the egg whites once they have reached soft peaks, and then the mixture is whipped to firm peaks. (It’s best to use superfine or a mixture of superfine and confectioners sugar for this, because they dissolve quickly.) This type of meringue is the least stable but also the lightest, which makes it perfect for soufflés.

Swiss meringue

Firm and slightly denser than the others, a Swiss meringue is made by stirring sugar and egg whites together over a pot of simmering water, or bain-marie, until they are very warm to the touch before whipping them . The early addition of the sugar prevents the egg whites from increasing as much in volume as they do in the other meringues, but adds to its fine texture. Swiss meringue is particularly good for baking crisp meringue cake layers and for topping pies.

Anyway, as the home of the meringue, it’s hardly surprising that you’ll find meringue dishes being served in most cafes and restaurants in town. While they can be eaten on their own, it’s also possible to get this delicious dessert served with cream, ice cream or with variety of fruit. In Meiringen, you can get all three toppings for a real sugar overload.!!!


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