Where’s the fun in fondue? It’s in the dipping of fruits, vegetables and meat into a pot of melted cheese. It’s in the good conversations with your family and friends. It’s in the anticipation of the yummy tastes and textures from the combination of melted cheese and food items.
Let’s take a look at the fun facts surrounding the popular culinary tradition promoted by the Melting Pot chain of restaurants. You will gain a deeper appreciation for its history, its table manners, and its weird and wonderful dipping items.
Swiss National Dish
In the 1930s, the Swiss Cheese Union (Schweizerische Käseunion) promoted fondue as among the national dishes of Switzerland. This isn’t surprising as the nation is known for its wide range of cheeses, which are included in many of its dishes and desserts. The idea of melting several types of cheeses in a pot and dipping raw and cooked food in it is a natural progression.
But what exactly is a fondue? Basically, it’s a few types of melted cheese served in a fondue pot, known as a caquelon, placed over a portable stove underneath of which has either a spirit lamp or a candle to keep it warm. The first dipping item was said to be pieces of bread but there are more choices nowadays, even several weird items that even the snobs will scoff at.
The cheese fondue became more popular in the United States and Canada in the 1960s. But there are also fondues that use dipping sauces other than cheese, such as the chocolate fondue pot and the fondue bourguignonne (i.e., pieces of meat are dipped in either broth or oil to cook).
While the fondue started as a Swiss national dish, it has definitely become an international dish!
Know Your Manners
Just as in fine dining, there are also table manners involved in enjoying fondues, whether these are the cheese or the chocolate variety. Here are a few things to know so that you can avoid committing a faux pas when eating with cubed pieces of fruits, vegetables and bread in a fondue.
- Use your own long-handled fork.
- Be sure not to spear the cubed pieces of dipping food all the way through with the tines of the fork.
- Remove the cubed pieces using your front teeth only, which means your lips and tongue shouldn’t touch the tines. Keep in mind that since you will be re-dipping your fork into the communal pot, you don’t want any of your body fluids to touch the melted cheese or chocolate.
- Hold your fork steady over the communal pot for a few seconds to let the excess cheese drip off.
- Use your dinner fork in sliding the cheese-covered cubed bread into your plate before eating it.
- Always rest your fork on your plate when you’re not using it. Placing it over the pot is among the rudest thing you can do in a fondue.
But there’s a different set of table manners for eating fish and meat fondues. In this case, each guest will be provided with two types of fork – a dinner fork and a fondue fork.
- Spoon several pieces of the cubed fish or meat into your dinner plate.
- Spoon small ladles of sauces into your plate, too.
- Spear a piece of meat or fish with your fondue fork.
- Hold the bite-sized pieces of fish or meat on the end of your fondue fork.
- Cook these pieces in the simmering flavored stock.
- Remove the cubed pieces from the fondue fork using your dinner fork and place them into your dinner plate.
- Eat the cooked pieces of food, which you may or may not cut into smaller pieces.
You will find that a fondue experience is a more casual affair, thanks to its communal aspect. But like all types of dining, you have to be aware of the proper table manners to enhance the experience. Otherwise, you may find yourself not being invited to another fondue party.
Weird Yet Wonderful Dipping Items
The most common dipping items for cheese and chocolate fondues include fruits like apple slices, strawberries, and kiwi, as well as pretzels and marshmallows. But you will also find several weird yet wonderful dipping items that you can order in a fondue restaurant. A few of these items may be too weird for your tastes but you must first try them just to see for yourself.
- Beef jerky in a cheese fondue can be too salty for many people but if you’re into the combo, then go ahead. Your better option will be beef jerky dipped into melted chocolate, which has a unique balance of sweet and salty. You may also try dipping turkey jerky or bacon into melted chocolate.
- Insects as a chocolate dipping item may seem weird but it can be a favorite for many people. The nutty flavors and crunchy texture of fried insects coupled with the sweet gooeyness of chocolate is as unique as they come without crossing the line into inedible.
Why not try jalapeño peppers, mint leaves, and pickles, too? Your experimentation may well lead into a delicious combo.