By Shelly Detwiler, berry farmer and dietician
Fondue night was a favorite childhood memory. We would gather around a platter heaped with crusty bread hunks, fresh crisp-crunchy apples slices and green celery chunks. Fondue forks seen as swords from a kid’s point of view were passed around. These would probably be illegal today or at the very least have hazard warnings in large red letters. I’ll fess up, there may have been a battle or two as mom slaved away making the creation of hot melted cheese and wine goodness. These memories prompted me to create my own fondue nights in the young Detwiler house. Bread was warmed and cut, apples were sliced, celery chunked, and fondue was made. My three guys of course loved the weapons, aka fondue forks, but when it came to the fondue, the little guys pronounced a total fail. Fondue had become Fon-don’t!
Switzerlanding.com states the earliest Swiss fondue recipe appeared on the scene was in a Zurich cookbook. In 1699, it was described as bread dipped in shredded cheese melted with wine. The Swiss Cheese Union, the true cheeseheads, began promoting fondue as the national dish of Switzerland in the 1930s. The story goes that they continued to inspire regional fondue specialties to boost Swiss unity during the time of war and rationing. Post war, the Swiss Cheese Union sent out fondue pots to just about anyone in order to get rid of their stashes.
Americans were first introduced to fondue at the World’s Fair in New York in 1964. It became the rage over the next 20 years. In 1975 The Melting Pot restaurant was born and today there are over 96 in the U.S. and Canada. One Swiss soccer team took go big or go home to heart in 2010 and created the world’s largest fondue set and party. Quick converting tells me the fondue pot was over 8.6 feet wide and 5.3 feet deep along with two massive 8.6-foot-long fondue forks to go along with the pot! Word on the street is you could dip a whole loaf of bread in it. The question is how would you eat a whole loaf of bread? Must be like eating an elephant, one bite at a time. In recent years in the U.S. west, pitchfork fondue has become the craze. Invite me if anyone is doing this.
Fondue is meant to be a fun, cozy, communal way of sharing a meal and has only a few rules. Number one and a big one at that there is NO Double Dipping! I have been known to be guilty of number two which is: No Eating from your fondue fork. No one wants your cooties. Tradition states that if you actually commit a faux pau and remove your fork from the fountain of cheesiness with nothing on the end, meaning your bread dropped off, men owe a round of drinks and women kiss their neighbor. Yikes!
It’s all about the dipping and starts with a base of cheese, broth, oil, chocolate and other ooey, gooey deliciousness. The traditional Swiss cheese fondue has taken on a life of their own with variations such as bacon and brie, herb and cheese, Southwestern, spinach artichoke, Wisconsin beer cheese and Vermont Cheddar just to name a few. Choose hot oil or broth to cook to perfection your favorite meats, poultry, and seafood. Pots filled with melted chocolate or carmel round out fondue perfection.
Just as important as the base are the dippers. Cheese dippers include crusty bread, celery, pretzels, crackers, chips, cooked meat, poultry, apples, pears, grapes and lightly steamed veggies of cauliflower and broccoli. Even pickles are great, just be sure to pat dry before dipping, so pickle juice doesn’t alter the fondue flavor. Meats and poultry like beef tenderloin, filet, sirloin, chicken breast, and pork loin should be cut into half-inch pieces. Try shrimp, lobster, and salmon in the broth/oil fondue. Even raw green beans are a great dipper. For chocolate or sweet fondues, dip just about anything from Rice Krispie treats, sugar wafers, vanilla wafers, cookie sticks, angel food or pound cake, marshmallows, fruit, even bacon. With three boys, you can also imagine fingers were occasionally found in cooling leftovers.
This November, make sure you invite the gang over and try your hand at fondue. It’s sure to be a Fun Do night!
Eat healthy & well,