It’s winter, and spring and fall – all in one day. That kind of describes the weather here currently. I started the working year off in winter. With a fall on a frozen street in front of the building where I work. Luckily, nothing happened except a slightly bruised knee which didn’t even hurt anymore the next day and the embarrassment of having to be helped up by a complete stranger, but the incident taught me that I should be a bit more careful about crossing the street during weather that could make it slippery. Also, I was at the pedestrian crossing and not two metres further back, where I could have been hit by a truck had I been crossing during a red traffic light. I must confess, I can be kind of a rebel when it comes to red lights and would often just rather move on with my life than wait, especially when no cars are around or far off away in the distance. But waiting does have its perks, no? So I do wait. Back in college I took a Peace Studies course, which was divided into several categories, which went from society, to smaller units down to the individual and our interpersonal relationships. During the last part of the course, we read Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh, a book I have since often consulted, but which more importantly has ingrained itself into the most banal every day thoughts. In one part of the book, he writes about how we can use involuntary stalls in life to breathe deeply, to take a look at our surroundings and to smile within ourselves. Sometimes, while looking out the large window from my desk, I try to keep this concept in mind. I enjoy watching the magpies play, the last few leaves blow off the skinny trees and the glistening of the sun between the beautiful ocean that grey clouds can turn into if they are having a good day. Looking out the window (or taking a walk around Flora botanical garden, where you can find green parrots any time of year), you wouldn’t know what season it is. Cheese fondue in contrast, is definitely winter. Why, you ask? I mean it’s cheese, loads of it, melted in wine, spiced with as much garlic as you can manage, in which you dip pieces of white bread. It’s probably one of the worst things you can eat. Ever. I grew up around cheese fondue, my father being a great fan of it. Always wanting to share the things he enjoyed the most with friends, he would even share this dish with guests, something I can’t imagine doing being a grown up. During these occasions he would always say the same thing: that cheese fondue was a dish originally from Switzerland, a dish of the homeless. The would ring the bells of random homes, ask for old bread, that last chug of wine and a piece of old cheese. Did they have garlic? They would be interested in that, too. And once the collection was complete, the beggars would light a fire, cozy up around it and start eating out of the same pot.
Cheese fondue is also a winder food in part, because it is a very intimate dish. And it gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling. It’s the wine. And the fat. You have one pot of fondue, everyone gets their own little bowl for their bread and in go the forks (or special fondue cutlery) into the cheese mass. Remainders of spit and all. I kind of only want to have this meal with people that I kiss, so it’s down to my husband. We have this meal once a year, always in late December, when we make a celebration of it. We dress up, we listen to lots of good music and then get all giddy at the sight of the melting cheese. Then, my husband tells me to peel a few more toes of garlic, because the heap I have already peeled is not sufficient in his humble opinion. Since the gluten-free days, I also pull fresh baguette out of the oven. Then, we eat. The candles flicker. We stop to breathe deeply and to look at our surroundings and appreciate them. We pull the pieces of white bread out of the pot, the cheese always forms a string. And sometimes, even as we are already breathing deeply and halted, our piece of bread falls off the fork and into the fondue and delays us a bit. A search for the escapee begins. We always laugh. Thich Nhat Hanh would be pleased.
Ingredients (for one very hungry person – double, triple or halve at your convenience)
1 cup of dry white wine (don’t skimp, get a good one!)
3 toes of garlic
A little oil for frying
150g cheese – ensure to use several varieties (I recommend Appenzeller, Emmental and Gruyere – but older Gouda is also a nice option if you don’t like the stinky cheeses – Camembert does not work) – I asked Mephisto to help me.
a tablespoon of cornstarch diluted in a little water
If you’re into it: dried roast onionsMash up the garlic or cut it into tiny pieces. Place into your pot, with a little oil and roast the garlic just one tiny bit. Place the white wine into a pot. Heat your stove to medium heat. Add the grated cheese, stir with a whisk. Wait until the cheese has melted (this will take a bit). Add the diluted cornstarch and turn up the heat below the pot. Wait until your fondue has boiled into a homogenous mass. Add a handful of dried roasted onions, if you wish. Now, you can proceed to cut the bread into bite-sized pieces. I recommend baguette, because it is both crunchy on the outside and has the right amount of fluff for cheese fondue. Serve hot. It’s also best to keep the pot under a candle, to keep the cheese warm. I use my teapot warmer… 😉En Guetä! (As a Swiss person would say to wish you Bon Appétit!)