The holiday season during the 1960s was kid-friendly and colorful, with the premieres of television specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) and A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), which are still favorites today. Popular items under the Christmas tree were Easy Bake Ovens, G.I. Joe and Barbie dolls, and the art-friendly Etch a Sketch. Holiday parties featured aluminum Christmas trees, Burl Ives on the hi-fi, and a table laden with things like gelatin molds and stuffed celery.
In search of a ’60s appetizer to share, I headed to the Yankee archives, but despite the abundance of many well-known “classic” appetizers of the era (hello cream cheese), the pages of Yankee were surprisingly lacking. The food department back then consisted of a sole column called “Recipe with a History,” featuring just one recipe. Most were soups, puddings, cakes, and a lot of mincemeat pies, usually Grandma’s, and always with plenty of suet.
Determined to bring you an authentic appetizer, I took to the Yankee Magazine Facebook page, asking our fans which appetizers they think of or remember from the ’60s. All of the answers were fun to read, but Micheline Hull Dolan and Roy Littlefield sold me when they mentioned fondue.
Fondue is essentially glorified melted cheese, and we all know Vermont cheddar is the best cheese out there, so I tracked down a 2009 Yankee recipe for Vermont Cheddar Fondue, and stitched it all together where it should have been — back in the 1960s!
To make this fondue (we’ll link to the recipe at the end), dry white wine is simmered with minced garlic and bay leaves, before lots and lots of Vermont sharp cheddar cheese is added.
Once the wine, garlic, and bay leaves have simmered long enough, the freshly grated cheddar is added in small batches, then whisked to make sure it’s completely dissolved before adding more cheese.
With cheddar fondue, green apple chunks and french bread make great “dippers” for the cheesy goodness, so I cut up a bunch of those.
Time to preheat the fondue pot in anticipation of the real deal! I picked up this Oster electric fondue pot (with forks) for $8 at a local secondhand store. I think it dates from the 1970s, but let’s not split hairs. It’s an official fondue pot, and isn’t that enough?
I transferred the bubbling cheesy fondue to the to the pot, then arranged the bread and apples next to it for easy dipping access.
Are you ready? Grab a fondue fork and secure your bread firmly on the end. If it’s not secure and falls off into the cheese, you’ll have to pay the price. Fondue legend says that if a woman loses her bread, she’s supposed to kiss the man seated next to her. If a man loses his bread, the next round of drinks are on him.
Using the special fondue fork, which is long and tapered, dip your bread into the cheese and swirl it around to coat it. The aroma of the wine, garlic, and cheddar will have you swooning.
After the cheese-dunk, transfer the bread to your plate and eat it with a separate fork. Since you’ll be using your fondue fork over and over to dip, you shouldn’t be putting it in your mouth, but of course, you already knew that.
This fondue was a hit with Yankee staffers. The cheddar and apples offer a unique New England spin on traditional fondue, and if you haven’t saved your original fondue pot from your bridal shower or wedding, armed with this recipes, you just might be tempted to pick up a new one.