Every food seems to have its own national celebration now, so fondue chain The Melting Pot has decided to stir things up by offering a two-day acknowledgment of National Cheese Fondue Day on Wednesday. (This is not to be confused with National Chocolate Fondue Day, which also definitely exists.) The festivities will see the chain offering a variety of $4.11 vats of molten cheese accompanied by bread cubes, tiny vegetables, and “hand-cut premium cured meat Artisanal Dippers” on April 11 ($4.11, get it?) and 12, and the affair raises two important questions.
One, what part of the singular “day” does The Melting Pot not understand? It’s a day. One day. April 12 belongs to Grilled Cheese Day, for fuck’s sake. Is this some sort of advanced level of shade-throwing? Does The Melting Pot have a bone to pick with cheese merely melted to a stretchy, gooey consistency, rather than turned into an extremely hot and viscous liquid? Perhaps they anticipate so much fondue-related demand that they feel compelled to prolong the festivities, but in that case, shouldn’t they at least raise the price to $4.12? The mind boggles.
The more pressing matter, however, is this: how the hell do you screw up melted cheese? The Takeout staff discovered this morning that we all have some fondue-related trauma with which to contend, and thus greeted the news of an inexpensive cheese-based opportunity not with our customary joy, but with various levels of revulsion. These are our stories.
I love fondue... at someone else’s house or a restaurant. I am a sucker for a Melting Pot three-course dinner featuring some creamy cheese mixed with white wine, which is saying something, since I almost burned my house down at a party with fondue. I had two fondue sets, which I’m pretty sure were wedding presents, so pulled one out for a holiday party one year. Melted cheese, open flame, tons of alcohol and people, what could go wrong? I quickly realized when one of my idiot friends (I never did find out which one) turned up the flame under the pot and I looked in my living room to see a giant flame shooting up toward the ceiling. I hastily turned the flame down, and idiotically tried it again. The second time I saw a flame shoot up, I finally shut down the party fondue operation completely; by the grace of god the pot wasn’t next to any curtains or anything. The bacon-wrapped dates didn’t turn out that great either. Not one of our better parties, to be honest. We sold the fondue sets at our next garage sale.
I don’t have a horror story of my fondue accidentally becoming saganaki, but I’m just overall stumped by the dish. It’s considered elegant, but I don’t see anything fancy about a pool of congealing cheese that your guests stab with metal sticks. Cheese falls on people’s shirts; the host is constantly running to and from the kitchen to scrape a cheese film off the surface; someone tends to eat a bit too much and require an immediate Tums intervention. Personally, I’d rather someone just set out some fancy cubed cheeses.
My thing is the texture and color of fondue: Anything that develops its own dull, matte, permeable crust is not something with which I can get down. In theory, fondue is actually my ideal food. My fridge is currently filled with dips, while my cupboards are well-stocked with things that can be dipped. I also love cheeses that are really highly-processed science foods—your Tostitos dips, your movie theater nachos, and so on. And yet even for me, that off-yellow film is a bridge too far. Cheese should absolutely be melted, and with great and delicious frequency. If said cheese then develops its own exoskeleton, I will have to fervently decline, as should all right-thinking people.
Fondue and I got off on the wrong foot. The first time we met was in Switzerland (When in Montreux!), in the midst of a two-month college backpacking trip through Europe. What I didn’t know was you had to ease yourself into fondue, not dive into it headfirst. This was my rookie mistake. What I later realized was that I was, in effect, pouring two cups of hot coagulated fat down my throat, and your stomach isn’t ready for that. I will save you the graphic details, but for the next 12 hours I was laid prone in the shared hostel bathroom muttering my Hail Marys.