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The first time I had fondue I was 15 and staying with a French family, the Brunots – old friends of my father’s. We went to visit the husband’s mother, “Mamine”, who lived in a chalet at an elevation of 1000 metres in the French Alps above a small town called Samoens, near Chamonix.
We drove there overnight, coming down to Geneva as it got dark and continuing on upwards as night fell. I remember marveling at the thick brown pallet of smog that hovered over this otherwise pristine and gleaming white city, nestled in its mountain valley with a secretive, glamorous air.
Because it was dark when we got there, I heard the Alps before I saw them. It was windy that high up, despite being full summer, and through the window came a sweeping sigh that hushed back and forth with a rhythm reminiscent of seaweed in the tide. That calm song – the sound of the pines that coat the mountains’ sides – stays with me to this day, as familiar as a loved one’s breathing.
In the morning, I was unprepared for the splendour outside. I’m from England, and the closest I had seen to a mountain was a fairly substantial hill. To the west of Mamine’s chalet, a giant crag of an Alp coated in snow and tipped with pink from the dawn reared up in blinding majesty.
We had fondue that day for Mamine’s birthday – as delicious and foreign to me as the Alps. Of course, the fun thing about fondue is having to do a forfeit when you drop your bread in the pot. Being a foreign guest, this mostly entailed people making me say “parce que” and falling about at how I pronounced it. Good times…
And now I live on the shoulders of a BC mountain tipped with snow, though it’s less craggy than an Alp. Just to prove that I’m not the only thing that travels well, and in the spirit of sustainability, today I bring you an all-BC fondue made with cheeses and wine produced right here. The only ingredient missing from the Alpine version is kirsch – but it works just fine.
This time, I used making fondue as an opportunity to christen a set my friend Mary gave me for Christmas, at a potluck with a group of friends to which we had been requested to bring food that had been locally produced.
1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
1 tbsp cornstarch
700g cheese, grated (I used Raclette from Little Qualicum, and organic Alpinhorn and Boerenkaas from Courtenay – all bought at the wonderful Les Amis du Fromage who also kindly grated it for me – in fairly equal amounts)
1 cup dry white wine (I used Gray Monk Pinot Gris)
Cubed white bread
Rub the fondue pot with garlic.
Toss the cornstarch with the cheese.
Heat the wine in a pot on the stove.
Stir in the cheese bit by bit til it’s melted.
Pour into the fondue pot.
Share with friends!