Sharing Is Caring With These Fondue Pots
Elevate your melted cheese set up with a few vintage designer renditions.
The Emporium is a monthly column by Annachiara Barretto-Grignoli dedicated to sharing weird and wonderful objects found for the home and self.
I’m not a chef gal. There, I said it. You can never really find me in the kitchen, and I make the same meals typically out of convenience and laziness. Don’t get me wrong, I love to try new foods, but pretty much only when somebody else is making it. This becomes a problem because I like entertaining and getting friends together for some quality time, but stress over putting together the food.
Enter the fondue pot, an underrated show stopper. What’s easier than grating hunks of Gruyère and Emmental to toss directly in the pot? Everybody loves bread. Everybody loves cheese. Everybody loves bread dipped in cheese. No skill required. Fondue should be called fun-due. Never had a tart cornichon or a crisp apple dipped in sharp cheese? Well you should, and it’ll change your life. You really can’t lose when the focal point of a dinner party with all your buddies is a vat full of melted cheese paired with carbs and chilled white wine.
Fondue is distinctly Swiss. The origins of the dining ritual go back to the 17th century, and it was popularized in the United States during the 60s and 70s. The Swiss Cheese Union (also called the cheese cartel, actually) found themselves in a slight dilemma: an excess of cheese and little buyers. Their solution was to campaign heavily for fondue. Advertisements of attractive, happy Swiss enjoying goopy cheese at a cozy chalet après-ski—it all seemed very fabulous and delicious to Americans, and so fondue parties became a thing.
I also might be biased. I’m half Swiss, and I grew up indulging in fondue, both cheese and the Americanized chocolate version. I’ve thrown several fondue parties, and hearing guests marvel over the bubbling caquelon and remarking at how tasty it is once they have a bite never gets old.
If there is anything I’ve learned from throwing a fondue party, it’s that the presentation should always look as delightful as the actual meal. The cheese is really the star here, but I’d argue that the design of the vessel is just as important. Fondue pots sold at large retailers are always very basic and boring-–big cauldrons made of drab nonstick with a thick electric cord that can never be hidden. Personally, I own both an antique copper fondue set and an electric one made of nonstick, but the antique one always seems to get a little more admiration from guests. So, if you’re going to go the fondue route the next time you host, take the time to search for what I’d like to call the “crazy cool fondue pot” to make the focal point of your next dinner party spread.
Find one that requires canned heat or a tea light. Even better if it has charming enamel illustrations of flowers and mushrooms decorating the sides. There are so many to choose from on eBay and Etsy, and I’ve come across several at thrift stores, antique shops, and garage sales. The simple search term “vintage fondue set” can yield thousands of results, allowing you to browse and choose the one that suits your style best.
After spending a few hours combing through the World Wide Web, below are my top five fondue pots:
For my cottagecore lovers, this pastoral number is perfect for adding a little slice of the lush Alps to your tablescape. I love the attention to detail with the plate, stand, and pot being made all the same sweet ditsy floral design.
I couldn’t resist sharing this vintage 80s Memphis Milano-inspired fondue set. I’ve only come across two variations during my search, both on Etsy. It’s the opposite of utilitarian and simplicity, the perfect example of a crazy cool fondue pot and exactly what I mean when I say fun-due.
This one is a true blue (and green) piece straight out of the 70s. The individual plates are a nice touch to add some personalization and a dedicated catch-all for the cheese that may or may not miss your mouth as you pull your chosen dipper out of the melting pot. Now all you need is a conversation pit complete with a tufted couch and shag carpeting to match.
And for my design freaks out there who prefer something a little more understated yet still unique, don’t worry, my world of crazy cool fondue has not forgotten about you. Italian housewares company, Alessi, created their own set in the 70s with a perfected, geometric design made of stainless steel and wood. Their Danish equivalents at Stelton also put their own mid-century spin on fondue, releasing a streamlined set complete with small dishes to hold your array of sides.
The fondue parties of the 70s should make a comeback. With a crazy cool fondue pot, it’ll be easy to put together, even easier to clean up, and look intriguing on the table. And who doesn’t want valuable conversation and mingling with pals over melted Swiss cheese? Just don’t forget the Lactaid!
See you in the next edition of The Emporium, where I’ll be sharing more weird, wonderful, and incredibly chic objets to delight your eyes.