Fondue – a great dish, which is also recommended by the… psychologists!
The classic fondue made from cheeses, melted to cream in heated white wine, is an Alpine dish. It was “invented” centuries ago by the shepherds in the Swiss Alps. The idea was the dish to warm up the people in cold or cool weather. Thus, fondue according to the season is suitable for the winter, for the late autumn, and for the early spring. Moreover, there is something very important, which is beyond the delight of tastes and aromas, and which is noticed by psychologists.
Fondue is sharing, it brings a feeling of belonging and community – family or friendly, it is a silent symbol of peace, coziness, security in the company of close people gathered for conversation or fun. In fact, both are usually obtained. This is why specialists recommend the consumption of fondue in a friendly company as a remedy against the feeling of loneliness, anxiety, confusion, fatigue, depressive states. There is a medical and psychological explanation.
The cheese, which is the basis of the fondue, contains a lot of vitamin B12 and, among other things, this vitamin plays an important role in a number of neurological processes. The cheese also contains zinc, which is needed for nerve tissue and one of its numerous effects is to improve mood.
From a psychological point of view, it is important to feel community and sharing – the fondue is made with common efforts and consumed together, as all guests dip into the dish from the common pot. This is often accompanied by a fun game for all – if someone drops his bite in the pot, he has to perform cheerful requests of the others – to sing, to dance, to perform a cast, etc. So the meeting for delicious and aromatic dishes is also a good entertainment.
We also have to mention that besides the classic fondue, modern options have also been developed – with fat or broth for short frying or cooking thin pieces of different meat, fish, seafood, and chocolate fondue, in which fruits are used to dip into the pot. These delicious meals are also very delicious, and in practice a person has varied options to choose a fondue according to the season.
The classic fondue
Generally speaking, in the classic Swiss fondue, two types of cheese or more (some chefs can make up to 5, combining the flavors and aromas without one suppressing the other), are gradually melted in a special pot with white dry wine that is heated on a free flame.
Normally, the cheeses used are Emmental and Grüyere, but you can also be appenzeller, cheddar, gouda and others. They should be gradually put into small pieces in the pot and constantly stirred to obtain a homogeneous creamy mixture. The spices include garlic, which is used to pre-smear the inside of the pot, as well as starch, dill, pepper, savory, nutmeg, lemon peel, cumin.
Typically, fruit brandy, especially cherry-brandy is added. Interestingly, in order to prepare the dish and keep it warm we have to maintain it on a free flame at the table where it will be consumed, which is not typical in Europe. Such practices are common in the Eastern world. The other thing is that everyone is involved in the preparation and cooking, not like the European way of preparation – by the hostess individually in the kitchen while the guests are in the “living room”. Here comes the next special feature: fondue is consumed from the common pot, in which everyone dips certain foods. Dipping is done with the help of special long forks, and for the dipping you can use hard pieces of bread, croutons, pickles, potatoes, and so on.
It is believed that Swiss Fondue originates from the XIII or XIV century, when the shepherds stocked with bread, cheese and wine for extended periods for the pastures in the mountains. With the drying out, the bread and cheese became quite hard. Whether by chance or somebody thought to try, but they noticed that if the cheese was melted in the wine that they regularly heated in the evening on the fire, a delicious meal was made, and the bread softened with dipping. Thus, Fondue survived through the centuries and became a national dish of the Swiss.
It should be mentioned, however, that this option is significantly different from the way of preparation of Fondue in the Italian and French communities in Switzerland. The Italian option for a popular fondue includes fresh milk, butter and yolks. There is also a difference with regard to the types and numbers of cheeses – the French and Italians often use one type, while in French communities there is an option to melt the cheese into butter with the addition of water.
Types of fondue with fat, broth, chocolate
As mentioned, in the more recent times, Fondue variations have become popular, as in some of these the boiling wine is replaced with vegetable fat or a boiling vegetable broth.
Raw meat, very thinly sliced is served additionally – veal, pork, chicken, fish, octopus, lobster, shrimp, etc. is served. With a special long fork, they are dipped for quick frying, respectively cooking and are taken out on a plate to cool.
Naturally, for the consumption of the already cooled slices of meat, we do not need a long fork for fondue – we can use a normal fork. To garnish the meat we can use pickles, carrots, asparagus, etc. can be used. Various sauces are offered for the fish and seafood, as well as rice. Local fondues are combined with beer as well as rose, red or white wines. Various types of chocolate can be used for the chocolate fondue – milk, white, bitter.
Melting takes place in a ceramic pot on low heat. The temperature is not maintained with a burner, but with a candle, the effect of which resembles a steam bath. Good melting requires frequent stirring. If desired, cream, liqueur, cinnamon, vanilla, mint extract, grated orange or grapefruit bark, crushed nuts, etc. can be added.
Fruits that are used to dip from the pot with melted chocolate can vary widely – strawberries, bananas, kiwi, apples, peaches, or others according to taste and preference. Biscuits or different sweets can also be used. It is appropriate to combine it with coffee or tea.
Fondue as a ritual
The consumption of fondue is not just food, it is a ritual that is part of the Swiss culture and has rules. They are not accidental, they are derived from the long practice. The goal is to avoid the spoil of the dish, for example, becoming watery or to burn, breaking up the bites, etc., as well as comfort and safety measures.
In case of inappropriate handling of meat fondue, for example, hot fat may spray the face or hands, the pot may burst if not properly selected, etc. The most important thing is the special pot called the caquelon, in which the fondue is made and is kept warm. This pot is placed on a stand, and on a slab below it is the free flame. Nowadays, a burner that can regulate heat is usually used, but even candles can be used for smaller pots.
For a cheese or chocolate fondue, a ceramic pot is used, but for meat in fat or broth, the pot must be metal. Cheese and chocolate are prepared at relatively low temperatures that ceramics can withstand, and its structure allows the heat to spread evenly.
However, when cooking with fat or boiling broth, ceramics can crack, so metal pots that can withstand the required temperatures of 350 degrees or more can be used. There are kits in which types of pots can be changed according to the type of fondue. There are special forks in the kits, usually six, for rolling of the bites in the dish.
Generally, they are metal with two teeth, have round handles, their length is up to 30 centimeters, but the available options in the shops are very varied. When dipping the forks with bites in the fat for meat fondue, be careful not to wet it, because the oil will start spraying. There are small plates in which to place the bites for dipping – bread, vegetables, possibly meat or the fruits for the chocolate fondue, as well as for the already fried slices of meat, while you wait for these to cool.