Felice-Fauxpas_Switzerland.jpgThere were no trips to far-flung destinations this autumn; I stayed at home and invited guests to eat out with me. But the meal wasn’t as straightforward as I expected.

IT’S ALL A BIT CHEESY!

So now it’s my turn to in­vite my two busi­ness part­ners out to din­ner. I opt to show them the local Lucerne moun­tain Pi­la­tus be­fore tak­ing them for a de­li­cious fon­due. I pick up my guests at the hotel and we join the world’s steep­est cog­wheel rail­way at Alp­nach.

It’s al­most ver­ti­cal, with a 48 per­cent in­cline, as the car­riage chunters up Pi­la­tus moun­tain. As we climb, the ibexes gape at us from their van­tage points be­tween the rocks. I point out the mag­nif­i­cent alpine beasts to my guests with ex­cite­ment. But they barely give the an­i­mals a sec­ond glance. White as a sheet, one of them asks: “Will we ever get down off this moun­tain?” Grin­ning, I shoot back a ri­poste: “Com­ing down is never a prob­lem!” But he just goes even whiter.

At the top we are met by the sound of alphorns and the music seems to steady the nerves of my guests. I even en­cour­age them to tease out a few sounds from the in­stru­ment them­selves. They are most amused when I fail mis­er­ably. We take a few min­utes to enjoy the mag­nif­i­cent view be­fore mak­ing our way to the fon­due restau­rant.

Fon­due is more than just the Swiss cheese spe­cial­ity; it’s the na­tional dish. Made of melted cheese, it also con­tains white wine and a shot of the local cherry brandy, known as kirsch. The cheese is kept hot in a caque­lon pot over a burner, the rechaud. You sit around the rechaud and spike bite-sized pieces of bread onto the end of the slen­der fon­due forks. Then each guest takes a turn to stir round the bread in the hot cheese and the savour the de­light­ful flavours. If you want to add a lit­tle kick to the taste, you can dunk the bread in some kirsch first.

Car­ried away with the con­ver­sa­tion, how­ever, I for­get to ex­plain the fon­due rules to my guests – they’re sec­ond na­ture to all Swiss peo­ple. The fon­due is barely placed on the table and my guest have quaffed the kirsch in one gulp, not re­al­is­ing it was meant for dip­ping the bread. Then they throw half of their bread into the caque­lon be­fore I get a chance to show them how it should be done. “Thanks for the lovely starter; we love bread soup,” say the guests, be­fore ea­gerly reach­ing for the dessert spoons to scoop up their de­li­cious “soup”. “The soup’s a bit thick – shall I add some liq­uid?” asks one of my guests. With­out wait­ing for an an­swer, he tips half the bot­tle of kirsch straight into the fon­due. I look at the pair of them in astonish­ment. “Bread-cheese soup? I never would have thought of that!” Some­what em­bar­rassed, I ex­plain to my guests how the Swiss eat fon­due and how we con­sider it a hearty, gooey main course.

We end up cry­ing with laugh­ter and order an­other fon­due. This time my guests get it right – and savour every bite of the de­li­cious cheesy meal, end­lessly stir­ring their chunks of bread.

 Yours,

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