There is something exciting about New Year’s Eve. It is a time to toast friends or flirt a little with your beau, even the beau you’ve been married to for a quarter century. You can even forgive those who get a little bit tipsy (but don’t let them drive home for Pete’s sake). I love the fun evening that says goodbye to the holidays, and offers one last hurrah before it is time to get back to regular workaday schedules.
Several years ago we started making Swiss cheese fondue on New Year’s Eve. From time to time we’ve invited friends to share a meal, and other times we’ve made it for the two of us. OK, occasionally we might accidentally drop a bite for our faithful four-footed pooch. She is on high alert during the dinner hour, and snaps up any dropped morsels before they hit the floor. How she can be on both sides of the table at once is proof of teleportation, I’m certain. But I digress.
Last year I went to my favorite market just prior to New Year’s Eve. A most gracious gentleman appeared out of nowhere to offer his help. I asked what he could suggest to accompany fondue, he replied, “Fondue? Swiss fondue?? Is this what you are making? For New Year’s Eve?” His slight accent was hard to place, but made his questions seem Very Important. Soon his face broke into a smile and he said, “I am from Switzerland! Fondue comes from my home! I will tell you how to make fondue!” And with that, he instructed me how to make fondue the way his mother made it. I would hazzard a guess that his grandmother made it that way too.
We made fondue his way that year, and it was exactly what I had hoped it would be – warm, smooth, cheese that coated the cubed bread like a silken coat of yummy goodness. The blend of cheeses paired beautifully together, and melted into something smooth and creamy.
A few days after our meal, and for months after that, I searched in vain to thank him for sharing his delicious recipe. He was nowhere to be found, and I eventually concluded that he was either a fondue angel who appeared out of thin air to assist willing students, or that perhaps he found a job somewhere else or even returned to his homeland.
Then, today, one year later, I went back to that same market in search of fondue ingredients. And there he was! I went to him and asked the silliest question: “Do you remember helping me a year ago?” He looked confused, but then I said the magic words: “You helped me with fondue!” Once again a beatific smile spread across his face. And once again he shared with me his family’s recipe. I learned something else new - if a lady loses her bread in the cheese, she must kiss the cheek of the man to her right. And if a man loses his bread, he must buy the next bottle of wine! I wonder if it is considered acceptable to use your fondue fork aggressively to assure that your dining companions have to pony up wine or kisses.
The fondue beckons, however. We will make it again this year because it is our Swiss angel's tradition. And now, because it is our tradition too.