When talking about Swiss food, we inevitably have to talk about Betty Bossi. Probably every Swiss household has at least a few Betty Bossi cookbooks, and most likely also several Betty Bossi kitchen gadgets, some that are being used often and some that just looked too tempting in the catalogue but ended up as toys for the kids. I think it’s fair to say that Betty Bossi is the longest standing household name for Swiss cooking. However… there is no real person called Betty Bossi. Here is how it came about.
A fictional name inspired by the USA
The ‘Betty Bossi Post’ was published for the first time in 1956, as a free newspaper-page (one single page, printed on both sides). It was a free magazine, available in many shops, funded and published by the cooking fat producer Sais/Astra; the idea of a free of charge information leaflet for customers came from the USA. Back then this was a bit of a novelty in Switzerland and it was received very well by the Swiss women – finally somewhere to find meal inspirations and household tips. Of course, most recipes listed either Sais/Astra cooking fat, oil or margarine. This also explains why even today many Betty Bossi recipes still list margarine instead of butter, a fact I’d been wondering about for many years when I was younger.
Not only the magazine, also the idea for its name, Betty Bossi, came from the States. Back then, the American magazine ‘Betty Crocker’ was very popular amongst the American housewives. The first name Betty was copied for the Swiss version, and as a last name ‘Bossi’ was chosen, due to its popularity as a surname in all parts of Switzerland.
From free leaflet to paid subscription
After the initial years when the leaflet was published for free every 6 weeks, there was a change in 1966: for 2 Swiss Francs per year, the eight Betty Bossi editions were sent straight to people’s homes. The readership grew and with it the editions and the price for the yearly subscription. In 1973, the first Betty Bossi cookbook was launched – the ‘Betty Bossi Backbuch’. This book has been discontinued; I’m a proud owner of one of those books and still use it for several recipes.
Betty Bossi today
Betty Bossi is still going strong, in various ways. There are now over 100 Betty Bossi cookbooks – from books for traditional Swiss cooking (one is available in English – the Swiss cookbook), to desserts, baking and exotic cuisines like Asian recipes. All women in my family have at least 15 Betty Bossi cookbooks at home. The magazine, nowadays called ‘Betty Bossi Zeitung’, still exists too and remains popular. There’s also an online shop with many useful kitchen utensils. And if you’ve ever been to a Coop supermarket, you’ve probably seen the many Betty Bossi convenience food items that populate the shelves there these days.
Photo: Betty Bossi