Is there anything more quintessentially retro than fondue?
Of course not! No wonder it’s becoming mainstream again (you might notice, as I have, a scarcity of fondue paraphenalia in thrift stores lately. Boo hoo).
In case you’re a fondue novice (as one of our guests was) or a fondue skeptic (what, what?!), here are a few tips I came up with, based on the fondue party we had this past weekend.
FonDO break out your “heirloom”, harvest-gold fondue set from the time your parents almost set the table on fire.
I like to do this while singing songs by John Denver, Arlo Guthrie, and The Mamas and the Papas (some of the soundtrack of my childhood in the 70s) but no matter how peace-love-and-frolicky you feel, pay attention for a second because this also leads me to my next, important suggestion (actually, it’s my mother’s suggestion):
FonDO put your fondus pot(s) on a cutting board. Our two modern fondue pots actually come with this as part of the set, but in the days of hippy love and fondue mania, folks lived free and dangerously. The cutting board was the only thing that stood between my parents almost setting the table on fire and my parents actually setting the table (not to mention their 100% polyester outfits) on fire.
FonDO go overboard with the event. Why have only one fondue when you can have four? At our fondue last weekend, we had:
- oil fondue (for meat or better: dipping tempura-coated cheese, broccoli, mushrooms…)
- cheese fondue (for dipping bread, veggies, olives, let’s face it: anything tastes good when dipped in cheese!)
- broth fondue (we found this most amazingly-delicious recipe for roasted garlic broth!)
- chocolate fondue (for dipping cake, marshmallows, fruits, nuts, let’s face it: anything tastes good when dipped in chocolate!)
FonDO make things easy on yourself: buy the packaged cheese fondue. I used to be a die-hard, must-grate-my-fingers-off-while-preparing-heaps-of-expensive-and-frankly-slightly-stinky-swiss-and- gruyere-and-dithering-about-what-the-heck-to-do-with-the-rest-of-the-bottle-of-icky-kirsch kind of a girl. But, a couple of years ago, I was short on time and my sister suggested the packaged cheese fondue from a national grocery chain (find it in the cheese section, likely in a box or bag). It was divine and ready in the microwave in less than 5 minutes! Trust me, there’s enough chopping and dicing in fondue that you can forgive yourself for cheating on this one step.
Seriously, as long as there’s warm, melty cheese to dunk things in, NO ONE WILL CARE.
FonDO get creative with your dunkings. Y’know, if you just can’t bear to make things easy on yourself. Sure you can cut up a hunk of French loaf and swirl it in the cheese and it will be DIVINE, but why deprive yourself of making things complicated? Practical Man gave me this daisy pan so we made daisy-shaped mini pound cakes for dunking in the chocolate fondue. They were totally unnecessary, but they made me smile (or, maybe that was the sugar high, who can tell?)
FonDO make the leftovers into something equally yummy. I suggest caramelized onion pizza with fondue cheese and roasted red peppers (pictured below). Or re-boil and strain the roasted garlic broth and then use it to crock-pot a delicious roast.
We did both this week. Didn’t you hear the groans of delight?
FonDON’T forget to hunt in your relatives’ basements/attics and local thrift stores/garage sales for lots of fondue forks. Seriously, you can never have too many. Despite this, people will still tussle over which colour they get. Practical Man calls dibs on the reds.
FonDON’T invite too many people. Yes, you want to share the awesomeness that is fondue, but if there are too many people, you will end up with fondue pot traffic jams and some people sitting too far away from the pots. This encourages risky reaching behaviour, not to mention mounting frustration because the cheese fondue inevitably ends up farthest away from where you’re sitting, and all your peace-love-and-fondue-ing will end in tears and cheese-pot-proximity envy.
Friends don’t let friends suffer from cheese-pot-proximity envy.
For 3 fondue pots, I find six people is probably ideal. Eight, tops, if the invited tend towards self-sacrifice or are fondue Jedi masters.
FonDON’T forget to use the practical fondue plates. Even if they’re slightly chippy because your parents obviously had a lot of fun at their ’70s fondue parties. At first, I’m sure Practical Man thought I was just using these because they came in awesome vintage colours that matched the stoves and fridges we had growing up (harvest gold, fresh avocado, coppertone…) – okay, guilty.
But, it turns out that they really are very practical.
And, we need some more (but it’s winter, so no garage sales and the local thrift store have been fondue’d out on account of it was New Year’s Eve not so long ago). So, swoop in and acquire these funky, retro treasures, if you find them! It’s important to use those little divided sections to keep your raw stuff (especially meat or shrimp or scallops) away from your cooked stuff and dippy do’s. Which brings me to:
FonDON’T touch the fondue fork to your lips. Bad, bad burning sensation! Fondue is hot, hot, hot (and some people, like me, are slow learners.) Always cool your food slightly (or take off the fondu fork and transfer to your fun, fondue plate) before tasting.
FonDON’T overlook the fun dippy do’s! In addition to the fun dunking and cooking and chatting at fondues, there should be lots of fun dunking and dipping. While you are waiting for your scalded lips to stop throbbing, survey the land of toppings and goos. A variety of mustards, hot sauces, aiolis, sirachas, basically any kind of goo that you can plop on your plate and dunk your fondue pieces in, will go a long way to pushing your fondue from fon-dull to fon-delicious!
(Sorry, I couldn’t help myself).
And last, but not least:
FonDON’T spend the whole party away from the table, if you are hosting. The best part about fondue is that everyone cooks their own stuff (heck, they can even bring some of their own food and dippy-do’s!) Other than drinks and a little flame management (deftly provided by Practical Man), there’s not much to do except straighten your polyester muumuu and dive in to having a great time!
No, no. Not THAT kind of brownies.
The Brownies I’m referring to are of the Lord Baden Powell ilk. The step before “flying up” to Girl Guides. The step after Sparks. Little girls in tams and carefully-tied kerchief knots, brown knee socks and real leather pouches attached to their belts.
Do little girls even wear knee socks anymore or go to sleep chanting “left over right and under, right over left and over”?
Brownie troops used to be divided into sub-groups of fairy folk including gnomes, sprites, pixies, elves, fairies and leprechauns. My mom recently gave me my Brownie Record, which she had saved since I was a Leprechaun, way back in the ’70s.
I remember chanting our little group’s song (sung at the beginning of each Brownie gathering), while secretly wishing to be a fairy.
We’re the Irish leprechaun,
Guiding strangers when forlorn.
I didn’t particularly want to “guide strangers when forlorn”; I was much too shy for that. And, my seven-year-old self never understood why the leprechaun badge depicted a red, leaping figure. Shouldn’t “Irish” leprechauns have been green?
It’s quite an amusing little time capsule, the Brownie Record.
Apparently I passed the test of reciting “the meaning of the Smile and Good Turn” and I was able to “brush and comb my own hair” (although you wouldn’t know it from some of my pictures). Ditto for “Sew two types of buttons on actual garments” and “skip twenty times backwards without a break.”
Really? I, the life-long klutz, could skip backwards?!
In November 1976, I accomplished the feat of “keep your room tidy for two weeks” (I apparently lost that skill during the ’80s) and in December, “clean a pair of shoes”. By December 1977, I had progressed to “Wrap, tie firmly and address neatly a parcel for mailing.”
Such an important life skill. I wonder who was the lucky recipient of my wrapped, tied and neatly-addressed parcel?
Along with the Brownie Record, there were also a couple of badges, presumably removed from my uniform after it was passed on. Imagine my surprise when I found the Outdoors badge. I don’t remember the details about earning this badge and I’m pretty sure it involved more than what was written in my brownie record. That is, “Discover and observe three interesting things in the out-of-doors and tell your pack why they are interesting to you.“
You may recall how I feel about The Nature.
Lovely to look at.
Beautiful to behold.
But I find it rather buggy
And either sweaty or too cold.
Just a little poem I wrote, inspired by The Nature. I am a regular Leprechaun Emily Dickinson, aren’t I?
A Leprechaun Emily Dickinson with an Outdoors badge. Haha!
All this talk about brownies. I need one now. Not the Lord Baden Powell type.
The warm-from-the-oven type.