If you don’t live in Switzerland or Eastern France, well, I am so sorry for you. Why? Because you have no chance of enjoying a traditional and warming fondue with your family on a cold winter night. As my wife and I have just enjoyed this evening.
My first experience with fondue was unfortunately in Sydney on a hot evening, and I came very close to throwing up. That was over ten years ago. Now having lived through nine Swiss winters, I am now fully fondue accustomed. And not just accustomed as in tolerate. I am in love. If I don’t have a fondue at least once a fortnight in winter, I get very cranky.
So what is so special? Firstly, it is the alcohol burner on the table that keeps the fondue hot, and all around the table warm. Then it is the individual responsibility to stir vigorously each time you dip your bread, as it is vitally important not to let the cheese burn on the bottom of the caquelon. (The pot!) Then there is the pleasure of knowing that you can only drink white wine or tea with fondue. Why?
Because as any waiter in this region will tell you. They never argue with an offensive and loud tourist who insists on drinking Coke or beer with their fondue. Chances are they will die! Or at least be very, very unwell. And you may think I am joking.
The best story I have heard is from my darling wife, who told me that when she was young and waitressing, she had Japanese clients who insisted on eating their fondue with spaghetti instead of bread. Well, each to their own I say.
In the end, the prime reason for eating fondue is to keep warm. And in this regard it works like a treat. Open the doors and windows and let some winter breeze into the house. Otherwise, the smell of cooked cheese is going to kill you the morning after.
And, then there is raclette, but that is a cheese dish for another day.