One of the fun inventions of the Swiss is fondue, that do-it-yourself method of communal eating that can’t help but get everybody talking and generally enjoying themselves.
The earliest known recipe for cheese fondue as we know it today comes from a 1699 book published in Zurich, under the name “Käss mit Wein zu kochen”, “to cook cheese with wine”. It calls for grated or cut-up cheese to be melted with wine, and for bread to be dipped in it.
However, the name “cheese fondue”, until the late 19th century, referred to a preparation including eggs and cheese, as in la Chapelle’s 1735 Fonduë de Fromage, aux Truffes Fraiches it was something between scrambled eggs with cheese and a cheese soufflé. Brillat-Savarin wrote in 1834 that it is “nothing other than scrambled eggs with cheese”. Variations included cream (“à la genevoise”) and truffles (“à la piémontaise”) in addition to eggs, as well as what is now called “raclette” (“fondue valaisanne”).
The first known recipe for the modern cheese fondue under that name, with cheese and wine but no eggs, was published in 1875, and was already presented as a Swiss national dish.
Despite its modern associations with rustic mountain life, it was a town-dweller’s dish from the lowlands of western, French-speaking, Switzerland: rich cheese like Gruyère was a valuable export item which peasants could not afford to eat.
The introduction of cornstarch (“Maïzena”) to Switzerland in 1905 made it easier to make a smooth and stable emulsion of the wine and cheese, and probably contributed to the success of fondue.
In addition to cheese fondue, there are broth (“fondue chinoise”), oil (“fondue bourguignonne”) and chocolate fondue. The chocolate fondue in this photo is something that I enjoyed a number of years ago at a restaurant that specializes in desserts (that is a good thing!). It was delicious, particularly the home-made marshmallows!
Which fondue do you enjoy most?
This image was captured with a DroidX using the camera+ app.