Fondue is a Swiss communal dish shared at the table in an earthenware pot (caquelon) over a small burner (rechaud). The term is derived from the French verb fondre (to melt), in the past participle fondu (melted).
Diners use forks to dip bits of food (most often bread) into the warm semi-liquid sauce (commonly a cheese mix). Heat is supplied by a wick or gel alcohol burner, or a tealight.
While cheese fondue is the most widely known, there are other pot and dipping ingredients.
A recipe for a sauce made from Pramnos wine, grated goat’s cheese and white flour appears in Scroll 11 (lines 629-645) of Homer’s Iliad and has been cited as the earliest record of a fondue.
Modern fondue originated during the 18th century in the canton of Neuchâtel. As Switzerland industrialized, wine and cheese producers encouraged the dish’s popularity. By the 20th century many Swiss cantons and even towns had their own local varieties and recipes based on locally available cheeses, wines and other ingredients. During the 1950s a slowing cheese industry in Switzerland widely promoted fondue since one person could easily eat half a pound of melted cheese in one sitting. In 1955, the first pre-mixed “instant” fondue was brought to market. Fondue became popular in the United States during the mid-1960s after American tourists discovered it in Switzerland.