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FONDUE – MORE THAN JUST A DISH

This traditional Swiss dish does not need an introduction. It has an amazing smell, an indescribable gentle taste; it combines long traditions with pleasure; it can turn any ordinary evening into a festive dinner full of bright emotions and… melted cheese! Let us talk about fondue, but be careful as it can arouse your appetite!

Its name comes from the French word fondre, which literally means “to melt”. The ingredients are well known. Dry white wine, spices (such as garlic, pepper and nutmeg), bread and vegetables as an accompaniment and, of course, the essential component – Swiss cheese! Gruyère, Emmentaler, Vacherin Fribourgeois, Appeneller, Tilsiter – the choice is yours.  Melt it in a large pot called caquelon, put it at the centre of a table on a heater and enjoy the meal in a company of your loved ones – isn’t it the recipe of true happiness?

History cannot tell us for sure when and who invented fondue. Some people suppose fondue was an old tradition of Alpine dwellers. Harsh winter cold would dry the bread and make the cheese hard so the hungry men would melt cheese on fire and gather around a big table for this nourishing and extremely delicious dish. Another version ascribes the invention to a monk named Vacarinus who lived in a 13th century. There was a strict rule that prohibited eating cheese while fasting. Vacarinus could not bear the abstention and one day he decided to heat the cheese up and melt it. Technically, that substance was different from a piece of cheese and therefore after some debates the “cheese soup” was eventually allowed during fasting.

The first ever recipe of cheese fondue appeared in a cookbook that was published in Zurich in 1699. However, it had a different name: Käss mit Wein zu kochen (to cook cheese with wine). In the 18th century the recipe of the dish named “fondue” appeared in Swiss cookbooks, in the beginning of the 20th century the utensils for fondue became common in Swiss homes and in the 1930s the Swiss Cheese Union promoted it as a Swiss national dish.

Today fondue is an essential for everybody who wants to get acquainted with the Swiss cuisine. Furthermore, the Swiss themselves cannot really imagine their lives without the melted cheese: surveys show that every family consumes three and a half fondues per capita annually. Perhaps that is the reason so many versions of fondue exist. The most famous are moitié-moitié, a mix of Gruyère and Vacherin fribourgeois cheeses with white wine, kirsch and cornstarch, and Vacherin cheese fondue, with a little water to make it creamier.

The tradition of fondue cooking actually went beyond the frames a long time ago: chocolate fondue is a popular alternative to the original version. In fact, Swiss fondue is so much more than just a dish. It is a social event with its etiquette and traditions. In fact, it symbolizes the Swiss culture that puts equality and sharing on the first place!

Enjoy fantastic fondue in Fantastic Switzerland!

Michael AW

Michael AW

Michael is the founder of Fantastic Switzerland Associaton. A non-profit organization to promote the location of Switzerland

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