That could bethe end of the post. I know we hear about Swiss chocolate, and that too was delicious. But I have never eaten so much cheese as I did in Switzerland. The evening we arrived, our hosts prepared traditional fondue, which should only be made with cheese and white wine, and at the very end, a shot of kirsch to maintain the proper consistency. You must make sure your fondue neither boils nor congeals. It’s a delicate process. Once the silky smooth liquid cheese arrives on the table in its sturdy ceramic pot, each fondue imbiber takes his or her own long fondue fork, skewers a piece of bread (only bread. None of the creative “other things go well with cheese” impurity), and mushes it around in the cheese for a bit. You want to soak up as much delicious cheese as possible. But be careful. It’s like graham crackers in milk. If you leave it soaking too long, the bread will fall off the fork and be lost in the sea of cheese. When someone does lose their bread, there’s free-for-all among the other diners to fish it out. Whoever snags the lost bread gets to stab the loser with his own fondue fork…. Just kidding. The finder gets to kiss the loser…a sloppy, oily, cheesy smooch!
A warning when eating fondue. The Swiss, who as we know are very intelligent and reasonable people, know for a fact that if you drink cold beverages with your hot fondue, the cheese will congeal in your tummy into an intractable lump and you will DIE! If you order fondue at a restaurant, your only drink choices are hot tea or white wine. Yes, the Swiss understand that white wine is chilled, but that’s an exception. Apparently cold wine does not react with hot cheese in the same way as other cold liquids. We did drink water with our fondue and lived to tell the tale, but I wouldn’t have risked it if I weren’t in the company of Swiss fondue experts (and Eugenie’s mom who is a renowned Heimlicher).
Having discovered the joys of melted cheese, the Swiss went to town with recipes. The following night, we had raclette, a fun meal that you cook right at the table. This time, each diner receives her own cheese-slice-sized pan. The center of the table features a raclette oven. You select a slice of cheese from the platter, place it on your pan, and set your pan in the oven. Watch carefully. You don’t want it to burn. While it gets all melty, you have time to cut up a few baby potatoes (only potatoes. Absolutely no bread this time) on your plate and perhaps sprinkle them with paprika and “Swiss spice mix # 32.” You are also allowed to roast pearl onions and pickles on top of the oven. When your cheese is properly gooey, you snatch your pan from the oven and use your special raclette spatula to scrape the cheese over your waiting potatoes. You are may drink whatever you want with raclette. This form of melted cheese holds no dangers in combination with cold drinks.