I was in Haute-Savoie last week – part of the ancient kingdom of Savoy – that mountainous corner of France around Mont Blanc and south of the Swiss city of Geneva. The name Savoy comes from the latin sapaudia – fir forest – an origin still heard in the French word sapin (fir tree).
Long an independent duchy, the area was occupied by Napoleon’s troops from 1792-1815. After a period as part of Sardinia, Savoy was annexed by France in 1860.
The region has strong associations with Piedmont in Italy, and with French-speaking Switzerland (Turin and Geneva are both much nearer than Paris). The local dialects reflect old mountain French with a smattering of Italian.
But the food doesn’t reflect Italy or France. Savoie is a stronghold of Alpine cuisine. Don’t expect delicate French dishes – this is the home of solidly calorific monster feasts to fuel any long day on the slopes.