Derived from the French verb “fondre,” meaning “to melt,” fondue is a Swiss dish where cheese is melted in a communal pot and then eaten by dipping bread, speared onto long-stemmed forks, into the hot cheese. Typically placed onto a round table to afford equal access to those dining, the pot of melted cheese is usually kept hot by electric heat or some type of chafing fuel (“canned heat”).
Each person at the table is provided with a long-stemmed fork and a plate filled with bite-sized cubes of some sturdy bread. The fork is used to spear a cube of bread, which is then dipped into the melted cheese. Once coated with cheese, the bread is held over the pot to allow any excess cheese to drip into the pot. Traditionally, without touching one’s tongue or lips to the fork, one’s front teeth are used to delicately remove the bread from the fork since that same fork—and those of all the other diners—will be used to dip other cubes of bread into the communal pot of cheese. Unless, perhaps, between lovers or amongst close family members, that tradition should be reexamined. The preferred method is provide each guest with an extra plate onto which the cheese-covered bread is placed before being eaten. With this method, the fondue fork, still holding the cheese-covered bread, is held in the left hand and placed onto the extra plate as a dinner fork, held in the right hand, is used to remove the bread from the fondue fork. The cheese-covered bread is then conveyed to the mouth with the dinner fork, and the spearing fork is used to dip another cube of bread into the communal pot.
The fondue concept is not limited to just cheese. Also popular is fondue bourguignonne, where cubes of meat are dipped into hot oil to be cooked tabletop. Fruits, especially strawberries, are also dipped into chocolate fondue. But regardless of the type of fondue, the proper thing to do is to avoid placing utensils form which one has eaten back into the communal pot.