#140, Make fondue
I have a lovely copper fondue pot with a porcelain insert. It has been sitting in my cabinet for 25 years, but it has never once, in all that time, held even the wish of a creamy fondue. It has on occasion, I admit, held rather more than a little dust. Indeed, I once found the pitiable carcass of a misguided ant who had no doubt died searching for a remnant of a nonexistent Gruyère.
Making fondue has always seemed like too much trouble. I tell myself that I will have to buy the right sort of cheese, I will have to buy the right sort of wine, I will have to make sure I have chafing pot fuel, I will have to make sure that the copper is polished, and I will have to buy a whole bottle of kirsch in order to use a mere tablespoon.
No, making fondue did not seem convenient in the least.
Yet I know that the whining need for convenience is really the death rattle for all creative exploration and achievement. We must not listen to those mewls. They lie. They seduce. We must be strong. We must stay light on our feet and determined in our spirit. We must move forward into fear, into failure, into…fondue.
So, tonight, come hell or high water, I am melting the damn cheese.
It helps to have teenagers in house. I called and asked my daughter to purchase a baguette and some chafing fuel on her way home from school. I had already purchased the cheese and the wine. I decided to forego the kirsch.
I found a recipe online that is called “Foolproof Cheese Fondue” by Daniel Gritzer, culinary director of Serious Eats. I found the assurance of foolproof rather alluring. The recipe called for half a pound of Emmentaler and half a pound of Gruyère. My grocer’s cheese case did not contain any Emmentaler, so I picked up a big wedge of Jarlsberg instead and a small brick of Gruyère.
I looked at the counter and I felt that the hot promise of fondue was in the offing.
The crucial parts of Gritzer’s method are his use of a double boiler, his incremental addition of the cheeses, and his constant monitoring of the pot so that the mixture doesn’t get too hot and “break”.
I was being hounded by ruffians while I was trying to make the fondue, so I didn’t get to toast the bread or adequately style my photo. Truth be told, I forgot to add the lemon as well.
I had proved Gritzer’s assumption. A fool could not ruin his recipe.
The fondue was rich and melty and coated fresh pieces of baguette like soft wax. The cheeses were nutty and sweet, and the ruffians began to fight for proximity.
Even with my errors, it was delicious. In fact, the ruffians even momentarily forgot about the plastic container of onion dip they had smuggled in and put on the counter. (Mon Dieu!)
The next time I make fondue, I think I will serve it on a low table as an appetizer. I will enjoy it leisurely with wine and perhaps I will include toasted nuts and dried fruit as accompaniments. I will also add the lemon and the kirsch.
And perhaps I will give the ruffians the night off so they might enjoy their contraband dip and “reduced fat” potato chips somewhere else, without distraction.
Then I will put Edith Piaf on the stereo, light the fireplace, and invite bohemian friends to the house so that we might philosophize over the depth and power of language and the weakness and vanity of politics. We will smoke black cigarettes and open another bottle of wine. Our faces will flush and our voices will carry to the street. When the clock strikes two, we will be tearfully revealing the identities of old lovers and we will huddle together to compose desperate text messages that we send into the night like poems under a bright and aching moon.
Once you unleash the sorcery of fondue you must proceed carefully. You can never underestimate the French and the hot reach of their molten sensibilities.
Even if it takes you 25 odd years to build up the nerve, do make the attempt. Fondue is worth the wait.
#257 days to go!