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Amur per forza nu vaglia una scorza—
Forced love is not worth tuppence.
(Val Müstair proverb)


Cuschina naira.


Where today a heavy leather curtain divides the stür from the cuschina naira, the "Kunst", as it was called, once stood. This was a tiled wall which used heat from the cooking stove behind to heat the inn. The Kunst was mainly intended for use in spring and autumn, when it was not cold enough outside to light the tiled stove (German: Kachelofen).

For centuries, food in the Chasa Chalavaina was cooked over an open fire—in large amounts, as may be inferred from the size of the old kitchen utensils. The smoke from the hearth did not however escape up a chimney, but collected in the dome-shaped roof of the kitchen, where a simple hole acted as a vent. This open fire had a lasting effect on its surroundings: the kitchen is black, as black as pitch. The soot discoloured the arched ceiling, penetrating deep into the stonework.

Until the Chasa Chalavaina was re-furbished in 1965 and the Kunst removed, the kitchen staff would pass food through to the stür via a hatch, a small opening in the wall with a sliding wooden door. The hatch has been preserved and, viewed from the stür, can be seen to the left of the leather curtain. The fireplace which these days tempts one to linger in the kitchen was put in as part of the 1965 alterations to take the place of the old open fire. The fuorn (bread-oven), on the other hand, with its door just beside the fire-place, does date from y much earlier. Rye bread was baked in this oven, the typical Val Müstair rye bread still served today at every meal in the Chasa Chalavaina.

The size of the fuorn may be judged not only by taking a look inside; it's capaciousness is also illustrated by a nice story. The following episode took place in 1799, when a Napoleonic army was fighting Grisons–Austrian forces in the Val Müstair. One morning, so the story goes, a chambermaid at the Chasa Chalavaina was doing the rooms when she tipped a bowlful of dirty water out of a window into the forecourt, without looking. At that very moment some French officers in full dress uniform were standing below, so the slops cascaded down upon them and their splendid attire from a height of several meters. This reportedly caused quite some indignation among the officers and they rushed into the house in order to get hold of the unfortunate girl and punish her.


She, however, desperately hunting for a good hiding-place, crawled into the bread-oven. A second maid stopped the opening with a bundle of twigs. The officers eventually had to abandon their search. The hapless girl is said to have stayed in the oven for three days, leaving her hiding-place only at night in order to eat and drink Despite its scale, the oven does not take away from the space of the kitchen. Its shape can though be seen clearly, outside the Chasa Chalavaina's eastern wall: the fuorn lies within the curved projecting section of the wall. It was constructed by building it onto the outside wall—a style still more clearly marked elsewhere in the Val Müstair, e.g., in the Haus Pitsch in Santa Maria.

The kitchen with its open fire meant food and comforting warmth in the cold winter months. It thus served its turn not only as a kitchen but also as somewhere to sleep. Big wooden boards, arranged like a great staircase over the descent to the cellar, show how the kitchen was once used for sleeping. This series of steps was designed to make full use of the space over the cellar stairs, and the wooden boards were placed upon them. Here slept the employees of travelling gentry. The spot was a popular one; it was always warm in the kitchen, unlike the unheated rooms above.

 

 
 

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