FOOD HISTORY: Fondue

Fondue, derived from the French word,"fondre", meaning "to melt', is a warm cheese dish which originated in the Neuchatel Canton of Switzerland. Traditionally, it consists of at least, two cheeses, melted with white wine and flour to stabilize the cheese in the wine. It is served , communally,  in a pot called a "caquelon" and is eaten with long forks used to spear a piece of bread to dip into the melted cheese. Before refrigeration, cheese and bread were made in the summer and fall and were expected to last throughout the winter. Obviously, the bread and cheese became hard before they were totally eaten. The Swiss, however, found that the hard cheese could be melted and become edible when heated with wine and stale, dried out bread became soft and pliable when dipped into the melted cheese. What was once developed as a necessary means to eat otherwise inedible cheese and bread, developed into a social custom where the Swiss could enjoy a communal meal with family or friends around a heated pot of melted cheese and bread. From Switzerland, the idea of dipping bread into melted cheese spread to other countries. While the original Swiss fondue consists of two cheeses, Gruyere and Emmentaler (sometimes kirsch, a clear cherry flavored brandy and garlic are added) each canton has their own style of fondue. Italians have their Fonduta, made from Fontina cheese and egg yolks while the Dutch eat Kaas Doop, a fondue style dish using Gouda cheese, milk, brandy and nutmeg and use brown bread for dipping. Other kinds of fondue have evolved, not using cheeses but  hot oil into which various tidbits are dipped to either cook or flavor. Bagna Cauda ( from the Italian, bagno caldo - meaning "hot bath",) a specialty of the Piedmont region of Italy, is made using butter, olive oil, garlic and anchovies and is used as a dip for various fresh vegetables. Fondue Bourguignon, a fondue method of cooking meats in hot oil  was introduced by Konrad Egli, Chef at the New York Swiss Chalet restaurant in 1964. Also, in the 1960's,  Egli, working with a Swiss chocolate company wanting to find a way of introducing its new chocolate and nougat bar named Toblerone  in the US, hit upon a new kind of fondue - a sweet one - using only cream, Toblerone and Kirsch brandy into which pieces of  fruit or cake could be dipped. Now there are all kinds  of fondues to choose from and one to please everybody's  taste.