My Cheese Fondue Set Takes The Stress Out Of Hosting Dinner Parties

When I was given a John Lewis fondue set, I discovered that melted Gruyère was the answer to pre-dinner party fear.
Honestly it's life-changing
Huffington Post UK
Honestly it's life-changing

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I love the idea of a dinner party, especially in the winter months. Just you and your favourite people sharing stories and catching up without waiters fussing over you or a bill to settle at the end of the night. What I don’t love though, is cooking.

For most of my adulthood this has meant I have been unable to host a dinner party, bar the one very expensive time where I ordered from a catering company a la Mrs Doubtfire. Until, that is, the Christmas an idea-strapped aunt bought me a fondue set.

I’d always thought of fondue as being more at home in an alpine lodge somewhere, encircled by incredibly posh people discussing the quality of the ‘powder’ on the slopes. But, as it turns out, it is also the perfect dinner party menu replacement for yours truly.

It means that, instead of continually checking the oven and rushing out to buy more parsley, I spend the hours before my friends arrive watching Downton Abbey reruns in a candlelit bath. In fact, you would never guess I was about to host a gathering until about half an hour before my guests arrive, when I chop up the Gruyère and lay the table.

Cast Iron Fondue Set, John Lewis, £49.00
Huffington Post UK
Cast Iron Fondue Set, John Lewis, £49.00

Not only does a fondue set alleviate the stress of having friends over, it never fails to excite my guests. Gathering around one feels akin to huddling around a campfire, but instead of kumbaya we sing drunken renditions of Fleetwood Mac.

It feels innately naughty, like we’re disobeying instructions not to play with our food. Somehow, even at thirty years old, I can’t help but feel smug about managing to sidestep eating my greens to go straight for pure bread and cheese.

For anyone unfamiliar with a fondue set, it’s a Swiss melted cheese dish served in a communal pot over a portable stove that is heated with a candle. It’s typically eaten by dipping bread into the cheese using long-stemmed forks.

My fondue set is a cast iron one from John Lewis. It looks chic on the table, heats up quickly and stays warm all evening – which is great news for anyone whose friends are long-winded storytellers, like mine. The forks are colour-coded so you’ll never mix up utensils and the entire thing is really, really easy to clean – meaning that post-dinner party dismantling is almost as easy as set up.

There is truly nothing as warming as watching your friends, chunks of bread in hand, come alive with joy – and all for the price of a few blocks of cheese. I am continually in awe of how it manages to stir up delight in even the most seasoned dinner party-goer.

A friend once remarked how wholly unfair it was that she has to spend five hours, if not more, cooking ahead of dinner parties to ensure they are a success, while I just melt some cheese. But I’m not ashamed.

I talk about my fondue set to anyone who will listen and point out ‘that Gruyère is actually the best for melting, you know?’ to people in the cheese aisle. I’ve gone from the friend who sheepishly turns up with a bottle of wine and no plans to return a dinner invite to one who has to check my diary at the end of every social engagement as people ask, ‘When are we next coming over?’

Plus, it’s brilliant if you want to channel chalet chic but can’t ski and hate heights.

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