After much deliberation with my mother, we settle for cooking a huge Paella out on the back patio and since that decision, we'd been praying to the Sun Gods for the last 8 or 9 months to shine kindly on the annual 'Cousins Party'. The complex roll out of this event is in true military fashion and very little is left to potential error, as there is a Plan B for every maneuver.
This year there was a slight failing in the development of a 'Plan B Menu', partially due to my mother spending the early part of the week in hospital and mainly because my sister and I had a change of heart ... we couldn't decide whether to stick to our guns and hope that the weather held up or change tact completely. All this focus on one meal meant several thumbing sessions through about 1,000 recipes, several bottles of wine and complete tangent discussions for several hours. We were of no help in the long run other than when, out of my recipe files fell a little 1970s Fondue Book which I must have rescued from some relatives' cook book shelf years ago.
This little Fondue book with 100 recipes for Fondue making seemed to be calling out to us to spend some time thumbing its pages. Who knew there where so many different ideas - personally, I see nothing wrong with the basic meat or cheese variety. And so it was decided, on an evening of rain, sunshine and Bulmers, that our family supper (night before the party) was to be a large pot of molten cheese, hunks of bread, all accompanied by enough meat (fried individually in another pot) to sink a battleship and a host of dips loaded with mayonnaise.
What where we thinking?!
Cheese Sweats, Cheese Dreams, Cheese Babies are just some of the issues we'd forgotten would need to be dealt with but they were 'issues' easily forgotten when on a delightful Cheese and Meat Fest. In fact, I think you could safely say we were having a Fondue Frenzy and my sister-in-law was most disappointed that we were not having a Trilogy of Fondue; as in Cheese, Meat, Chocolate ...!
I am however, extraordinarily pleased we stuck to just two fondues, as I certainly over consumed during our 2 hour monster family feeding session. I know that we had begun supper with about 2.5 kilos of Rump Steak cut into thin bite-size pieces and that it had almost completely vanished, consumed by 10 glutenous adults along with the Baked Potatoes, Rose Marie Sauce, Mustard Mayonnaise, Horseradish Cream, BBQ Relish Mayonnaise, Aioli (garlic mayonnaise), a pot of molten cheese and several batons of baguettes.
By the way, is anyone else beginning to see a theme in our sauces - light on the hips, yer right! No wonder it was tough the next morning, all that diary and of course it had nothing to do with the wine.
My brother-in-law did point out that we weren't at the Jail House Dinning Rooms, although the speed at which the two forks each person had and were being dunked in cheese or left to cook a piece of meat was quite extraordinary and possibly reminiscent of one or at minimum a boarding school supper hall.
However, although my sister-in-law mocked and derided our choice of supper menu, as well as teased my parents relentlessly for being a certain age and background which sees them hold-on to not one, not two but three fondue sets; she did concur that Family Fondues were missing from our recipe repertoire. In fact, she admitted that perhaps it was time to locate the fondue set they'd been given 10 plus years ago as a wedding present and put it to use at her next weekend party.
What's fantastic about fondues is that they are easy to make and are great as a family sharing meal at night or for lunch. With little more than cheese cubing, adding lashings of kirsch, white wine and rubbing the base with garlic, then letting it all melt into a molten run of cheese, you couldn't want for an easier meal. In fact, I think my mammoth cheese and meat chopping fest lasted a little more than 20 minutes, and that was followed by 10 minutes creating the meat dipping sauces.
After that, well, it was over to the family and their other halves to fight it out with forks, to cook and dunk to their hearts delights. Of course there are always forfeits for dropping a piece of meat in the cooking pan or for loosing (stealing) bread in the cheese mix. But a fondue also make for lots of noise around the table, laughter and a semblance of sophistication, just as long as you don't roll-up in a 1970s cardigan or polo-neck and a cheese smile.