It’s not meant to be funny. It is great and deserves respect. Fondue is not meant to be enjoyed with irony, sarcasm nor derision. It is meant to be enjoyed with the utmost sincerity. It should be eaten from your heart, not your mouth. And if you don’t know how to eat from your heart then I guess you just don’t have one.
Here is how you can tell if you are eating fondue with respect. If each time you dip a piece of bread into the cheese and you look into the fondue pot and exclaim, “Goddamn! This cheese fondue is never going to end!” then you are giving this dish its due. If however, you are ironically at a “fondue” party, are ironically “drinking” blush wine, are ironically “listening” to Chuck Mangione (finest smooth jazz flugelhorn player ever), then you are mocking the fondue and you should be stabbed in the chest with a fondue fork for disrespecting it as such.
Though meat fondue is amazing (For Christ’s sake it’s raw meat boiling in oil!) and chocolate fondue is fantastic (A giant pot of warm chocolate? Where are my goggles cause I’m going swimming!), it’s the cheese fondue that is really the end all be all. There is something incredibly comforting about dipping crusty bread in hot cheese that has been laced with beer or white wine. Wait. Did I say comforting? I meant orgasmic. Sorry, I always get those two words confused…sort of like stalactite and stalagmite.
And here is why cheese fondue deserves respect: it can even make stale bread taste good. For those fondue newbies, stale bread is the best for dipping into warm gooey cheese. Oddly enough, fresh bread can’t cut it. Try it and see the difference. So any food that can make stale bread an important part of the meal deserves your love and adoration.
My first experience with fondue took place when I was nine and my parents took me to a restaurant called La Fondue – smack dab in the middle of a suburban strip mall outside of Cleveland. (A year earlier it had been a crepe place called “The Saucy Crepe,” which just might be the greatest, unintentionally funny name for a restaurant since the concept of a restaurant was invented. ) I’m pretty sure because it was a fondue restaurant that my mom made me get dressed up, which meant I got to rock my dark brown corduroy jacket and my striped knit tie. And here are the two of the main things I remember from that night:
1) Taking a sharp prong, stabbing a food item, jamming it into another food item and then cramming it into my mouth was an ideal way for a spastic kid like me to spend an evening.
2) For some reason there was a chalkboard in the men’s bathroom. I would run in there every couple of minutes or so and draw pictures of boobs.
So you can see the importance of fondue in my life.
What I liked then about fondue, and still like about it today, is that it seems to combine all that is great about eating food: communal sharing, active participation, sensuality, fun and of course, gooiness…always the gooiness. And I get that people like to lump fondue in with all things silly and ridiculous about the 70s. I mean, how could you not mock a time when a thick red shag carpet on the floor of a van was considered hip? But it’s not fair that fondue has to suffer from collateral damage. It has aged nicely over the years and can stand on it’s own as a great meal.
And trust me, 25 years from now a future generation will openly mock us for eating foam. They too will eat it with a sense of sarcasm and irony. The only difference is that they will be right.