What’s a Mother to Do?
by Ann Edwards Cannon
Reflections on the Fondue
[p.68]Not long ago when I was pawing through my kitchen cupboard “looking for something, I came across an item I hadn’t seen for quite a few years—i.e., my old avocado green fondue pot. Naturally, seeing my fondue pot stirred up quite a few memories of Dating in the 1970s since fondue pots, along with eight-track tapes, were certainly an essential prop in the high school courtship rituals of that period.
Basically this is what a date was like back then. You and your friend Gigi would decide to take a couple of boys with prominent sideburns who were in your math class to a girl’s choice dance, which naturally meant you both needed to get (a) a new dress with a wide white collar just like the ones Susan St. James used to wear in MacMillan and Wife, as well as (b) a new pair of platform shoes.
(“Platform shoes? Platform shoes?” our mothers always used to groan. “But they’re so unattractive. Don’t you know what Carol Lawrence always says? Shoes should be slim and unobtrusive so that they don’t break the long line of a beautiful leg.”
Naturally, we rolled our eyes straight back in our heads when our mothers said highly goofy stuff like this. Please. We were sixteen. Why would we want to look like Robert Goulet’s ex-wife?)
At any rate, on the night of the dance you got ready by taking a shower and washing your long, straight Susan St. James-type hair with Flex Balsam shampoo after which you covered yourself with a thick cloud of strong perfume such as Youth Dew by Estee Lauder. By the time you walked out the front door with your date, who himself was awash in a sea of Elsha, people downwind could smell the two of you for miles.
Once you were at the dance, you and your date did a combination of the following three things: (1) sat around on the folding chairs against the wall and made nervous small talk, (2) danced, except during the drum solos, and (3) secretly worried about whether or not you might fall off your platform shoes and break your ankle.
Now here’s the part where the fondue pot comes in. After the dance you and your date and your friend Gigi and her date met at your [p.69]house for a nice late-night, candlelit dinner consisting of Caesar salad, warm orange rolls from the Provo Bakery, and raw beef which the four of you then proceeded to stab with little forks and slowly fry—piece by piece—in boiling peanut oil. You had to wait for about twenty minutes between bites. Meanwhile your stomachs were growling just like a pride of hungry lions on the make for a couple of unsuspecting Christians wandering through the woods at night.
Wow. What a gastronomical concept.
Anyway, I started thinking about fondue pots all over again when I was visiting New York City this past week. Not that I ate at any fondue pot restaurants while I was there. Far from it, in fact. On this particular trip I ate at one of your famous four-star chi-chi establishments where you were required to (a) pull your hair back, (b) suck in your cheeks, (c) wear lots of black, and (d) look slightly bored. Naturally I tried my best to fit in. I glanced over the menu, acting like I and my hollow cheekbones didn’t care that we couldn’t see prices printed anymore. Then, in a world-weary voice that suggested I’d seen the inside of one too many four-star restaurants in my day, I ordered monkfish. I ordered monkfish for the following two reasons: (1) I’d never tasted it before and (2) I’d always wanted to meet a celibate fish. Anyway, I waited around for awhile, looking jaded and so forth, until my meal was served.
This is what it looked like—a little slice of meat resting on a moist bed of greens, most of which I couldn’t identify. That was it. No potato or rice. Just a little monkfish, crisply and cleanly presented for my dining pleasure.
I know that I was supposed to go wild about this and start spouting off eh biens all over the place. I know my palette was supposed to have spasms of longing at the very sight of that exquisitely prepared monkfish floating serenely in the middle of a large white plate. But suddenly I felt like I was in high school again, crouching furtively around a fondue pot with my little bits of uncooked beef, wondering glumly if my adolescent hunger would ever be satisfied.
It’s at times like these that my essential white-trashiness starts to show, not unlike your basic bra strap at a Wednesday night Bingo game. Here’s the thing—when it comes right down to it, I want quantity, thank you very much, especially if I’m paying lots of money. This is what happens to people like me who spent their childhood eating [p.70]Sunday dinner at Sizzler because one of their dad’s buddies was the manager. They want heaps of food on their plates—lots of steak and potato and hefty hunks of cheese toast on the side. They want their salads laced with mayo. They want pie and ice cream for dessert.
Okay, so now my secret’s out.
You’ve probably even guessed that I use Campbell soup whenever I make Cream of Monkfish casserole.