Be warned: When in Switzerland, do not call any bit of melted cheese “fondue”, unless it is proper fondue (pronounced, “fon-dyoo”). The Swiss, who invented fondue, tend to be a serious lot and they take their regional cuisine very seriously.
The term “fondue” is reserved for the 60/40 blend of Swiss Gruyere and Swiss Emmenthaller cheese, and both cheeses must originate in Switzerland. Do not let any cheesemonger try to convince you otherwise.
Nutmeg, pepper, dry white wine and kirsh brandy are added to the cheese blend and then added to the earthenware pot (Caquelon) that has been rubbed with a clove of garlic. The cheese is stirred continuously while it melts over a burner. A loaf of crusty bread (and it must be very crusty) is cut up into small cubes to dip in the fondue.
The meal must be entirely comprised of the bread and cheese. Any type of vegetable or fruit accompaniment is frowned upon. In fact, any accompaniment is frowned upon. The meal is: bread and cheese. Nothing else. That is how it is done.
The Swiss have their traditions and they have their rituals, and fondue is definitely a traditional ritual. The Swiss have dinnerware and silverware dedicated to the fondue meal. They also have dedicated wine glasses with which to serve the accompanying kirsh and white wine. That is how it is done.
When eating the fondue, it is polite to stab your crusty bread with your fork and dip the crusty bread into the melted cheese and lift it out with a twirl. Let it drip once and then place it on your plate. Using your additional fork, fork it into your mouth. It is not acceptable to put the dipping fork directly into your mouth. You will not be invited back.
Be advised: You must never comment on the taste or quality of the food. In the words of the Swiss, “Es geht von außen Spruch”: It goes without saying. Do not say, “mmmm” or make any noises suggesting your pleasure during dinner. You must hold your tongue and look severe.
During dinner, polite and non-confrontational conversation is encouraged. The Swiss are neutral after all. Do not discuss their neutrality. It makes them feel inferior and defensive. Do not discuss World War II or Switzerland’s concessions to Nazi Germany. You may discuss the Battles of Villmergen in 1656 and 1712, or the Swiss peasant war of 1653.
Do not discuss the compulsory military service for all Swiss males over the age of 19, nor the inequality for females who are not forced into compulsory service, but are allowed to choose to serve in the military voluntarily, as if they are inadequate or incapable.
You may discuss tennis ace Roger Federer, Heidi (the book, not the movie), their fondness for yodelling, and their world-famous chocolate. Though, never make a comparison between Swiss chocolate and America’s Hershey bar. You will be slapped.
Keep the conversation light and nod often. When the cheese is gone, wipe your mouth carefully with the napkin provided and excuse yourself from the table.