Five tips for eating fondue in Switzerland

September 30, 2011 by

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Try fondue in Switzerland--but only after reading these tips!
- photo courtesy of EquatorialSky via Wikimedia Commons

Ever since the fondue craze in US popular culture began in the 1960s, the habit of eating melted cheese served in a communal pot has come to seem slightly silly to many Americans. But let me assure you, fondue is no laughing matter (it was promoted to the status of a Swiss national dish as early as the 1930s). In fact, properly served fondue is seriously delicious, and no one has perfected this culinary art better than the Swiss. Here are a few recommendations and points of etiquette to keep in mind while pursuing the perfect pot (or, to use the proper terminology, the perfect caquelon).

1. Skewer or be skewered. A peculiar tradition has it that if a woman loses her bread in the pot, she must kiss her neighbors. And be careful, fellas. If a man loses his, he buys a round of drinks for the entire party. One variation on this tradition practiced in Geneva involves members of either sex being thrown in the lake.

2. No double dipping. Basic sanitation and common courtesy dictate that diners of both sexes should take care never to dip a piece of bread that has already been nibbled on. That’s just gross. Oh, and it’s rude too.

3. No go, unless there is snow. While uncultured foreigners are forgiven (encouraged is more like it) for eating fondue year-round, the Swiss consider the dish strictly a winter food, and avoid eating it unless there is actually snow on the ground.

4. Water into wine. Urban legend has it that drinking water while partaking in fondue is a sure-fire way to experience indigestion. While this may or may not actually be true, better play it safe and stick to whatever local variety of white wine is on the menu.

5. Save room for sweets. Though most main courses involve a wide variety of cheese and meats, a caquelon of melted chocolate is not an uncommon sight in most establishments. Slices of fruit or pastry are dipped in chocolate and other dessert varieties including coconut, honey, caramel and marshmallow.

- John Reality

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