My cheese fondue days are behind me now. Or so I think — at least those are my thoughts as I tend my slightly shredded thumb and forefinger.
For the record, I love cheese fondue. While not a huge fan of the traditional bread-and-cheese option, I enjoy mine with cut up carrots, broccoli, and apples. The occasionally small piece of bread is fine as well. I am just not a big fan of the big-loaf-of-bread-covered-in-melted-cheese, sits-in-my-stomach-like-a-lead-balloon feeling one can get enjoying the more common Swiss-made version.
“For the record, I love cheese fondue.”
In addition, I am not much of a New Year’s Eve person either. I have always labeled that evening as designed for rookies — meaning, I don’t need a special day to over-imbibe and party recklessly. Don’t you all want to be friends with me?
So at 25, when I lived with my then-fiance in Chicago, we decided to invest in a Le Creuset fondue pot (which at the time was way out of our budget) and host our own private, romantic New Years Eve celebration in our studio apartment. After all, we had a lake view — tiny and obfuscated but a view nonetheless.
For years, as a married couple, we dug out the Le Creuset religiously every December 31st. I eat pretty healthily most of the year, but this pile of melted cheese shoveled forkful by forkful on top of an unsuspecting healthy vegetable was our once-a-year fondue indulgence.
Post-separation and divorce, the Le Creuset fondue pot found its permanent home with me. Being single once again did not slow me down on the yearly cheese fondue ritual. I remember distinctly serving it anywhere and everywhere I was on the last day of any given year. That pot traveled and the tradition of ending the year with warm, melted, comforting cheese continued. Until it didn’t.
Time Marches On:
“once we moved in together the fondue-making disappeared”
Six years ago I moved in with a new partner. I mean, a different partner rather than new… as who moves in willy-nilly with anyone brand new? Here’s where things go sideways.
Turns out my partner is not much of a fondue fan. What the fuck? Who doesn’t like melted cheese? Regardless, once we moved in together the fondue-making disappeared. Not even sure how or why. I presume conversations went something like:
Me: “Hey, it’s New Years Eve soon, guess I should get the fondue ingredients.”
Him: “I am ok without that, not a big fan of fondue.”
And as it goes in relationships, we all know fondue became persona non grata in my home. Relationship compromise or in this case loss, is not new to me. It’s not my first rodeo by any stretch. My ex-husband isn’t a broccoli fan. So for 15 years I had to step outside the marriage for my broccoli fix. Unless of course, on the last day of the year it was wrapped up in melted cheese at the end of a fondue fork. I believe in work-arounds.
A Fondue Wild Hair:
Not sure why this year I decided I needed cheese fondue to be part of my end of year celebration. I planned an entire day of interesting little meals to be shared between my partner and me. From caviar to fondue to miso-glazed Chilean Sea Bass with baby bok choy and Japanese eggplant. (Yes, I see it… No need to declare the incongruity of the cheese fondue tossed in the midst of a mostly Asian inspired menu. It’s glaringly obvious.)
The day arrived and I began preparations for the courses. My idea? To have all the ingredients pre-measured, cut, in their respective mei bowls, at the ready. But as the day unfolded, it became apparent the cheese fondue was being voted off the island by both my partner and circumstance.
“That’s ok,” I said to myself. “It’s mostly prepped. I’ll package it up and we can have it on the first of the year.”
Close enough for the tradition. Plus, we will have the kids to share it with. So I can still get my fondue fix.
The 1st came and went. The fondue components remained trapped in their respective Tupperware containers, left alone with no one to retrieve them. The 2nd came and went. Turns out no one in my current iteration of a family cares much about fondue. It was a hard sell.
Finally, after days of feeling unheard and unsupported about my desire for fondue, I decided to make the fondue — even if it was just for me.
“to prepare a dish that is unabashedly designed to be sharable — for just me”
Of course, by this time my warm and fuzzy feelings towards the fondue ritual were replaced by resentment and self-pity. How is it possible that none of the people in my home want cheese fondue? You’d think I was handing out castor oil.
So, in the midst of others participating in dinner prep, I carved out some space in the kitchen to prepare a dish that is unabashedly designed to be sharable — for just me.
A few minutes into the shredding cheese process my 30-year-old tiny Cuisinnart broke. The blade chipped, sending plastic chips into some of the cheese. I dug out the plastic and pulled out the hand grater – now wishing I had not cut up the cheese into little cubes. Grating the small cheese cubes by hand was time intensive and tricky. Turns out one gets their hand super close to the grater quite easily during this process.
After slightly grating my forefinger and thumb, I noticed some pink appear on top of my otherwise cream-colored cheese. Ugh. Now I was bleeding into the fondue. Surreptitiously, I scraped off the blood-decorated cheese from the top of the pile.
There are so many adages that apply at this point. The straw that broke the camel’s back. My cup runneth over. Or, perhaps most appropriately given my oozing fingertip, the last drop. And so on.
“For the most part, I ate the fondue alone. Is there anything sadder?”
It was at this point in the process — acute pain can be very clarifying — that I became angry and resentful at the mere presence of the shredded swiss and gruyere.
After bandaging my bloody digits, I muscled through the rest of the preparation. Once I fished out the rest of the blood-stained scraps of cheese, I finished prepping the fondue and served it.
No surprise when the members of my family politely refrained from participating. If my memory serves me right, my partner dipped a few carrots and apples. He may have even stuck a broccoli floret in his mouth to boot before quietly walking away from the table.
For the most part, I ate the fondue alone. Is there anything sadder? Up until now, I believed that fondue was created to share with others. Gathering around a warm delicious pot of high-end cheese had previously brought memories of camaraderie, good conversation, and joy. But now, as I sat by myself at our dining table feeling sorry for myself, I realized that whatever meaning fondue had in my life up until that moment was now permanently changed.
Days later, as my slightly shredded fingers continue to heal, I am left wondering what to do with my 33 year old Le Creuset fondue pot. Planter? Change holder? Goldfish bowl? The choices seem varied and endless — as long as I keep bloody cheese out of it.
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