Once everyone was seated at the table, my husband brought the oil over from the stove. It was silent and still, appearing like syrup in a bowl waiting for a pancake to be dipped in it. But like many things in life, appearances can be deceiving. As soon as the pot hit the hot plate, it was a race to get your fork into a meatball and into the oil. The oil was fiery hot, rapidly boiling as soon as it was hit with the cold meat. The silent syrup was a thing of the past; the oil roared and rolled louder and louder as more meat was added. Around the table went the foil wrapped loaf of garlic bread, lovingly prepared with homemade French bread, butter, and garlic. As the foil opened, the scent of roasted garlic filled the dining room and we all took turns looking inside, carefully choosing our pieces. A crunchy outside piece or a bigger inside piece? Perhaps one of each. The bread was not only delicious on its own but it served as a perfect dipping agent; especially coveted once all the meatballs were gone. But who could save a piece?
I was the first to pull my meatball out of the oil while the rest of my precious family watched anxiously to see if it was fully cooked. It was! The next decision was which dip to try first. My favourite, sweet and sour, awaited my arrival; it lay in the bowl, the consistency of not-yet-set pudding. But I had two bites to dip and first chose the blue cheese that my brother had brought. Creamy and light, it was the perfect choice to cover my half meatball; he was a culinary genius. When I put it in my mouth, the cool and creaminess of the blue cheese was a stark contrast to the hot and crunchy meatball. Sometimes you never want a bite of food to end, you just want to keep chewing and tasting it forever. But that was not to be; no moment lasts forever. As I swallowed, I knew there was more greatness to enjoy.
The second bite went in the sweet and sour sauce, much thinner than the blue cheese but stronger in flavour. It is always a question as to whether or not the sauce will set in the fridge but this one was perfect. Coating the meatball but not overpowering, I found this bite to be even more spectacular than the first. If I was on death row, this would have to be my last meal. Taking a break from the meat, I served myself some Caesar salad out of our big wooden bowl. The wooden tongs had been around since before I was born and will always remind me of our parents. The salad was another perfect piece of the meal. It was like a jigsaw puzzle, every bite fitting perfectly with the one before. Except in this puzzle, every piece fit; there were no wrong pieces, nothing didn’t match. The lettuce was a perfect crunch; fresher lettuce didn’t exist anywhere – these heads were picked from our backyard only minutes before dinner. My brother made the salad dressing – a delectable emulsion of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and Worcestershire sauce shaken up with parmesan cheese and croutons. There was something about salad being served out of that wooden bowl that made it taste even better.
The meal continued with lots of conversation, which really is the best part of fondue. It’s not what you eat, it’s who you’re eating with. And the nature of fondue allows for more talking than other meals; you get to talk while the meat is cooking rather than racing to eat while everything is still hot. We alternated bites between meatballs, cooking steadly in the oil, salad and bread. We all had a favourite sauce and would defend our choice down to the last meatball. One thing is certain with fondue at our house: No meatball, just like no person, is ever left behind.
In response to today’s Daily Post prompt