Tonight’s the last-chance party time
for good old 2008, and since any New Year’s Eve celebration deserves special
treatment worthy of commemorating the old and welcoming the new, the idea of a
fondue — impromptu or otherwise — may well save your holiday bacon
if you haven’t come up with a concept yet.
Fondue is super easy and fun; it also
pretty much guarantees you a party, even at the last minute.
Just say the word “fondue” and people
light up like the little gas lamp that keeps the whole event simmering. There’s
something archetypically social and reassuring about gathering around a hot
burbling pot to dip in tasty tidbits. It must be lodged in our limbic brain
from the days of our furry ancestors gathering ’round a fire outside the cave
If you don’t have on old fondue pot
to dust off, don’t worry. A bunch of forks along with an old pot on a stove
burner on low will nicely do the trick since the best Canadian parties are
kitchen parties anyway.
No one is 100 per cent sure where and
when fondue originated. Mongolian hot pot, with its ringed pot full of bubbling
hot water or oil for cooking bits of meat surrounding a funnel up the centre to
allow fire smoke to escape, goes back to pre-history.
A passage in Homer’s
(an older translation, not Robert Fagles’ recent one)
è, who was “as fair as a goddess”, serving an Achaean chieftain and his
companion a meal which included Pramnian wine, which is thought to be a type of
Lesbian wine from the Greek island of Lesbos, that she had mixed with goat’s
milk cheese “grated on a bronze grater” and some ground barley meal.
the passage definitely says that the soldiers drank this mixture to quench
their thirst, some epicureans consider it the first reference to fondue. The
wine/cheese combo, I guess.
In more contemporary times, it’s the
Swiss who have been given the honour as originators and long-standing guardians
of the fondue.
Food expert Thelma Barer-Stein notes
the Swiss “consummate art” of blending tolerance and politeness with
simplicity, along with their capability to blend and adopt anything, including
foods, from other cultures as being a bastion of Swiss sophistication and good
taste, and generally all things Swiss-like.