Monday, December 26, 2011
Fondue Party: Our Swiss-Kissed Christmas Eve
Fondue, a Swiss favorite and a tradition in our family the past few years on Christmas Eve. Both my parents were born in Switzerland (they met and married here) and they were the only ones in their families to come to the United States. On holidays, we have never been surrounded by aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents. I have cousins I wouldn't recognize if they passed me by on the street. Steve and I took a trip to Switzerland a few years ago and met with some family and I traveled there more often as a child. On Christmas Eve, a fondue is a little piece of Switzerland which is a plane ride away, but still very far.
They have ready-made fondue kits you can buy, but it's really worth it to buy the Emmentaler and Gruyere cheeses. Just a few ingredients are needed to add to the grated cheese: garlic to rub the pot, cornstarch, pepper, white wine, optional kirsch (ours is on the side for dipping).
White wine and melted cheese on bread. What's better on a winter's night? I looked up some history of fondue on Foodtimeline.org and learned that fondue is the French word for melted, that most historians agree it was invented in Switzerland in the early nineteenth century and was a peasant dish, and Swiss fondue became a party novelty among American cooks in 1950s with many U.S. households adding "fondue pots" to their party ware in the 1960s and 70s. Chocolate fondues are distinctly American.
I always think back to a cozy alpine restaurant Steve and I shared fondue at in Zermatt, Restaurant Whymper-Stube...
and the beauty of this church up in the mountains. I love the smell and glow of the candles in church. Even on the highest mountaintops, places of worship exist.
It was all like a faraway and long ago dream, but still how I remember it.
Rick Steves produced a heartwarming special on Christmas in Europe, and he perfectly captured the cozy, intimate feeling of eating a fondue around a table. I wish I could magically jump into this scene with them.
No ham for me, but I'd take an extra serving of those scalloped potatoes with mountain cheese. My mom has a framed photo of her family's Christmas tree in Switzerland with the candles on it and it looks exactly like the one in the video.
Does your family carry on or incorporate traditions from the Old World (wherever your family's Old World lies) in your holiday festivities?