written by:
photos by:
May 28, 2009
Originally published in Prefab's Promise

The love of my life can prepare entire meals using only a sharp knife and a cast-iron pan. It’s a useful skill, but if you want to know the truth, I find his attitude a little annoying.

homecooking fondue pot

“Never buy cooking equipment that can do just one thing,” he said, catching me in front of that ultimate one-act wonder, the fondue pot, and its enabler, the long-handled fork.

We were in a secondhand store filled with kitchen castoffs, evidence of heartbreaking flings with other single-purpose equipment. The fondue pot, a mid-’70s yellow, was decorated with loopy drawings, and had a scarred nonstick interior.

There’s something seductive about a utensil that simultaneously evokes child’s play and French cuisine. With provenance in the Alps (a working mother, no doubt, with nothing for dinner except stale bread and cheese), the fondue pot is functional yet has a special-occasion veneer. You can do what I did last Valentine’s Day and recycle flotsam from the Dansk era, or you can invest in a new model: contemporary stainless steel, perhaps, or for Francophiles, the gleaming enamel Le Creuset. The heating element, whether automated or a more atavistic flame, will require tinkering. Which is generally the idea: Hands keep moving and scintillating conversation flows.

The trick is to avoid disagreements when you’re trying to spear and properly coat your croutons and someone else is getting ahead of you. If one’s croutons disappear under waves created by a more dexterous partner—well, the path to true romance is never easy.

All this is assuming you have a pot in the first place. It took my husband about ten minutes to spy my vintage set, smuggled past him into the coat closet. “Totally against the rules,” he said. “To melt cheese, try the stove.”

They say that’s what marriage is all about: compromising your desires to please the one you love. So I rustled up my prettiest apron, a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, and a pound of Gruyère. Then I hauled out some stubby forks and a cast-iron pan. I invited my lover to come lean with me against the stove. And when every bit was gone, I asked if he would volunteer to clean the burner.

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