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For the Love of Fondue

Text by: Marnie Parker
Photography by: Kevin Parker Photography

My love affair began with a crimson-colored, enamel pot decorated with delicate yellow and white daisies. It seemed to beckon me from the cluttered vendor table at a flea market in Homburg, Germany. I was compelled to take a closer look— I had no choice. I quickly recognized the distinct shape as a fondue pot, although I had never before tried the dish for which the pot was named. And so from this initial uneducated purchase, a passion grew that has spanned the course of the last ten years and now supports a collection of fifteen pots and many fond memories.

According to Fonduebites.com,
The delicious dish that we know as Fondue was actually invented out of necessity in the 18th century. Swiss villagers, separated from large towns by the long, freezing winters, were rarely able to enjoy fresh food. Instead, most of the villagers relied on foods like bread and cheese, which were made in the summer and had to last through the fall and winter months.

Stale cheese (and bread for that matter) becomes very hard and doesn’t taste that pleasant. The villagers found if they heated the cheese over a fire it improved the taste and was much easier to eat. Furthermore, they discovered that the hard bread would soften when dipped into the cheese. Soon, they began mixing in wine and other seasonings to transform old cheese and bread into a flavorful meal. Fondue was born.

The poorer villagers didn’t have the luxury of enough eating utensils, and they also had to gather around the fire to stay warm. These two factors probably explain why fondue is eaten out of one pot. To this day, fondue has the connotation of a communal meal.

During the sixties and seventies, people latched on to this communal image, and fondue dinner parties were extremely popular. Today fondue is enjoying a rebirth of sorts and has once again become fashionable.

© Kevin Parker Photography

It wasn’t until the sixties and seventies that people began to adopt this communal meal idea. Fondue parties became extremely popular. Today, fondue is “enjoying a rebirth of sorts” and is becoming fashionable, even classy.

To me, fondue has become much more than a meal in a fun and festive pot; it has become an avenue through which I am able to share my passion and zest for life and good food with friends and family. Fondue can be the perfect way to accomplish this objective without spending your entire Saturday in the kitchen preparing for a dinner party.

Below, please find my favorite tips for hosting a fondue gathering of your own whether it is an intimate, small group, or my personal favorite, a loud, rockin’ 70’s themed party.

Prepare Ahead of Time: Look over your guest list, and make sure you have an adequate number of pots. Ideally you should have four to six people per fondue pot. You will need separate pots for cheese, meats, vegetables, and chocolate.
© Kevin Parker Photography

Prepare the fondue that you are serving to your guests at least once before you have the party. This will keep you from running into unforeseen problems that sometimes come up with new recipes. It will also give you a chance to experiment with the different types of fuel that can be used with fondue pots.

Make sure that you have the proper serving and eating utensils. Special fondue plates with dividers help guests keep raw and cooked meat in separates sections. You should also have enough fondue forks that each guest has a separate fondue fork for each course or station. It is helpful to supply each guest with his or her own color of fork. This is especially thoughtful when there are several forks in the pot cooking meat.

About 15 minutes before guests arrive is a good time to transfer the fondue from the stove to the fondue pot. Arrange the dipping ingredients right before you start cooking the fondue.

Consider Serving Styles and Arrangement:

The traditional fondue party starts with a cheese fondue, continues with a meat fondue with dipping sauces, and finishes with a chocolate fondue. Of course that’s just a guideline, and you can serve whatever sounds like fun. The possibilities are endless. You may also opt to forgo courses and set up “stations” to serve all fondue types at the same time. This creates a fun relaxed atmosphere in which partygoers are continually on the move mingling between the different stations or courses.

© Kevin Parker Photography

These stations could include:

  • Cheese Fondue: The possibilities are infinite. Cheese fondues can contain wine, beer, Kirsch, milk, or cream, and of course loads of cheese. Spices are also added to enhance the flavor — my personal favorite is nutmeg. There are many variations of this dish including Italian, Mexican, pizza, or even Reuben. Surround your pots with bread chunks, cooked veggies, apples, and other dipping ingredients. Arrange the dippers artistically on plates and in baskets. Garnish with kale, herb sprigs, or even flowers.
  • Hot-Oil Fondue: This type of fondue was very popular in the 1970’s. As the name indicates, hot oil is placed in a communal pot in the center of the table or station, and guests dip small cubes of meat into the oil until fully cooked. Meat ideas include: thinly sliced beef, chicken, pork, and shrimp, fish, and seafood. The cooled meat is then dipped into various dipping sauces. I like to include at least five to six assorted sauces to find something for everyone’s palate. Vegetables may also be deep fried in the oil, but I personally prefer vegetables cooked in broth.
  • Broth Based: This type of fondue is similar to soup shared in a communal pot. You can use different broth recipes to match your dippers. Meats and vegetables cooked in broth are delicious. Some tasty veggie dippers are button mushrooms, cabbage, zucchini, squash, carrots, tomatoes, and potatoes. Garnish your tray with succulent red leaf lettuce and arrange vegetables on top.
  • Chocolate Fondue: Chocolate fondue is often the highlight of the evening and everyone’s favorite. You can try a variety of chocolates, such as milk, dark, or white. Use the highest quality chocolate you can find. Once again, milk, cream, or liqueurs are often added to improve the texture and flavor. You can also add mint, peanut butter, or cookies to the recipe. Common dippers for chocolate fondue are fresh fruit chunks such as strawberries, bananas, pineapple, mango, mandarin oranges, or apples. You can also try cookies, wafers, waffles, pound cake, donuts, cheesecake, nuts, marshmallows, and pretzels.
  • Caramel Fondue: Another desert fondue similar to chocolate. Common dippers include pecans, fruit, cookies, wafers, donuts, nuts, pretzels, popcorn, and almonds.
Fondue Etiquette:

Be sure to share proper Fondue Etiquette and traditions with your guests.

  • Dipping: After you spear a small piece of bread, dip it into the fondue to coat it with cheese. Remove it, but hold it over the pot for a few seconds to allow the extra cheese to fall back into the pot instead of all over your hands and face. This also gives the cheese time to cool. No double dipping allowed! Because the fork goes back into the pot, be extra careful not to touch it with your lips, tongue or teeth.
  • Dropping Food: Tradition dictates that the person who loses food in the pot has to buy a round of drinks or the next pot of fondue. My personal favorite variation, however, states that the person who drops food in the pot has to kiss the person next to them. Be sure to be standing next to someone you like.
  • Eating Meat Fondue: Spear the raw meat so the ends of the fork protrude slightly through the meat. This will keep the meat from burning and sticking to the bottom of the fondue pot. You will also want to watch your meat carefully to prevent undercooking, or the even more common the
    © Kevin Parker Photography
    mistake of overcooking, which always results in a jerky-like texture. Unlike cheese fondue, meat should be removed from the fondue fork and put on a plate before eating.
Play with your Food:

Relax and enjoy. Go ahead — play with your food! Unlike a normal party where guests are able to hide in the corner, the communal cooking aspect of fondue forces everyone to mingle and eat together. Fondue parties are cozy, exciting, unique, and of course tons of fun! Now go ahead and host one.