Cheese brings a special kind of joy on its own. Melted cheese goes one step beyond that, offering turophiles everywhere pure euphoria. In her tribute to cheese fondue, Hello Giggles' Jocelyn Doyle writes:
Is there literally anything more enticing than a pot of warm, boozy, melted cheese, and a pile of crusty bread to dip into it? If there is, I sure haven’t found it yet.
She also points out that fondue had its start in the cheese capital itself, Switzerland:
Fondue as we know it today originated in Switzerland during the 18th century, and the first known recipe was published later in 1875...Locals found that if they melted the cheese over the fire, and added wine and garlic, it made a perfectly gooey dip for their stale bread; the bread would soften when dipped in the cheese, rendering it far easier to eat without the danger of cracking a tooth.
Funny you should mention Switzerland. Any love you have in your heart for fondue, however genuine it may be, is based on a scam from what has been called the "Swiss cheese mafia."
When you are the cheese capital of the world, it's a huge deal if your cheese industry is in jeopardy. And after World War I, Switzerland was in hot water (or cheese, your choice). Suddenly, Switzerland's cheese exports plummeted, as war-torn countries found cheese to be a luxury. In response, Switzerland created the Swiss Cheese Union. Food Non-fiction explains:
So, what was the point of the new Swiss Cheese Union? Well, before WWI, the Swiss exported a lot of their cheese. After WWI, other countries in Europe had suffered greatly so they weren’t importing Swiss cheeses anymore. This meant that Swiss cheese makers had a much more limited customer base - they had to sell within Switzerland. Instead of trying to beat out the competition for the smaller customer base, they basically formed a cartel. They controlled the amount of production, the price, and the distribution of cheese.
As mind-blowing as that might sound, it gets better:
The Swiss Cheese Union had the goal of selling more cheese - both locally and abroad. What they needed was some awesome recipe that would use a lot of cheese. And of course that awesome recipe was fondue. Fondue...was the answer.
According to Think Growth, the Swiss Cheese Union declared cheese fondue the national dish in the 1930s. Here we are, nearly one hundred years later, falling into the cheese mouse trap of fondue.
Regardless, cheese fondue is the perfect communal meal. There are few other things that people can universally agree on than their love for cheese, and fondue enables everyone to share in that love together.
Whether you're going traditional and dipping potatoes and bread into your cheese, or you're switching it up with some vegetables and meat, nothing can provide more comfort to families, friends and strangers than a warm pot of cheese.
The flare and fun of fondue has lead to an American obsession with the meal, allowing restaurants to charge ridiculous amounts for the "true" fondue experience. The Melting Pot, for example, claims to be the "original fondue restaurant," and charges $30-$60 per person for a "4-course experience," according to its website. Despite the hype, one customer reviewed his fondue experience on Trip Advisor, calling it a "swindle."
The Melting Pot has a complicated gimicky pricing and food structure which is very difficult to decipher from the menu...You get three courses; a couple bowls with chunks of bread, and some raw vegetables. You are supposed to dunk these into two pots with lukewarm, tasteless cheese mixes. Microscopic portions. Then they bring dishes with meats and you proceed to stick them into pots of boiling water...So we spent a couple of hours boiling tiny chunks of meat and eating them. I wouldn't even do this in a backcountry backpacking situation...I would say that our almost $500 bill was worth about $50 dollars worth of food.
No matter where you eat your fondue, count it as an appetizer. You are guaranteed to leave the meal hungry and in want of more cheese.