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The Fondue Fiasco

by Pam Carlson-Hetland  
1/24/2008 / Cooking

If I could only find the box it was packed in, I had an idea of how to celebrate Valentine's Day with my pre-teen daughter. Basement diving--as we called our search through the piles of boxes--was quite an experience after moving from a 4-bedroom house to a condo half the size. Of course, it would be on the bottom! But, alas, I found the object of my search--a relic from the late 1970's: my avocado green fondue pot, along with some cans of Sterno for heating. It probably hadn't been used for 25 years. It was slightly bent up and stained but still useable.

Since it was just the two of us now, I wanted to make Valentine's Day special - a memorable event. I was anxious to begin fresh traditions in our new home. It would be fun to introduce my young daughter to the art of a slow paced and tasty meal.

The next stop was a trip to the public library to check out fondue cookbooks. I read each recipe carefully and decided on a Classic Swiss Cheese Fondue. I had never made this, but it seemed simple enough.

At the grocery store, we quickly filled our cart with food items to dip and swirl in the warm, creamy sauce. With the bags deposited in the car, I headed to the building next door to the grocery store.

"Where are you going?" My daughter asked, frowning.

"The liquor store." I answered. "The recipe calls for a dry white wine."

"Wait!" she called, catching up to me. "MY a liquor store? Do you even know what you're looking for?"

"Honey, I've been in a liquor store before. And the labels on the wine should state if it's a dry or a sweet wine, shouldn't they? If not, I'll ask. How hard can it be?" She looked skeptical.

After gasping at the prices and asking many questions of a dumbfounded young cashier, we emerged with one bottle of dry (hopefully) white wine.

My daughter set the table while I worked on the cheese fondue. The table looked so festive with the red place mats and pretty napkins. We popped the cork on the sparkling cider and set about enjoying this "Girls Night In" party for two.

With fondue pot poised on the table to receive the creamy mixture, I shredded cheese and carefully stirred and watched the pot on the stove. At last, the recipe said to remove from the heat and slowly add the wine, whisk until blended.

In most cases, I'm a good cook. My meals have gotten great reviews from friends and family. But nothing ever prepared me for what happened next. That smooth concoction turned into a rubbery gob of goo which smelled suspiciously like used gym socks. The whisk bogged down. I switched to a spoon. The spoon merely chased the rubber ball around the pot.

Considering the price of the ingredients, I decided we'd try it anyway. I poured it from the cooking pot into the awaiting fondue pot on the table. It landed with a disheartening plop. Each skewer of crusty french bread that was dipped into the pot got sucked off the fork and adhered securely to the rubbery mass. Finally, in desperation, I entered the avocado green pot with a meat fork and sharp knife and whittled off wedges. It was very chewy, and tasted exactly like it smelled. It's texture was similar to a previously chewed clump of bubblegum.

Finally, my daughter removed the undissolving wad from her mouth and said, "I don't like this. But I'm really hungry." We looked at each other. I reached for the phone and ordered pizza.

Upon filling ourselves with hot, properly prepared pizza, I had another brilliant idea. "Should we try the chocolate fondue recipe for dessert?"

Getting straight to the heart of the matter, she answered wryly, "Why ruin good chocolate?" Excellent point, I decided. Obviously, my cooking skills were getting a dubious review. We ate the chocolate right out of the package.

A few years have passed since this memorable event. My daughter has done well to bear with me as I venture into unknown culinary areas. When I purchased the outdoor gas grill, she dined on burned chicken and rare or crispy steaks until I got the hang of it. The new rice cooker brought on many nights of Asian-flavored entrees until she begged for an overdone steak. And the time-saving Crockpot? Well, not every dish tastes as great as the cookbook picture looks. Some adventures in cooking have received the "clean plate of approval" seal from my daughter. Others have not fared very well. But somewhere along the way, hope must have been renewed in my abilities. Her gift to me for Christmas this year was a brand new state-of-the-art, stainless steel, electric fondue pot--with a cookbook.

1 Corinthians 13:7 (AMP) "Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]."

Pam Hetland is a Christian, divorced, mother of a teenager, and an administrative assistant. She writes with a heart for those who have experienced pain and loss in relationships.

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