History of Fondue
Fondue, which comes from the French “fondre”, meaning “to melt,” had its origins in 18th century Switzerland as a means for farm families to stretch their limited resources during the winter months. With some remaining cheese, some stale bread, and a dash of wine the family could gather around the hearth. In Alpine farm villages bread was baked only occasionally so whatever bread was on hand was usually stale. By dipping the bread in the melted cheese, the bread was softened and became delectable. From these simple beginnings, fondue became a Swiss winter tradition.
The first written recipes for fondue appear in 18th century cookbooks published in France and Belgium, however they call for Gruyère, a decidedly Swiss cheese, so the Swiss rightfully deserved credit as the originators of fondue. Even though fondue may have had rural roots, its place at the Swiss table wasn't limited to the farmhouse and the peasant class; rather, it was more frequently enjoyed by people of means. The widespread popularization of fondue was part of a 1930s campaign by the Swiss Cheese Union (Schweizerische Käseunion) to increase cheese consumption in Switzerland.
After World War II and the end of rationing, the Swiss Cheese Union resumed its successful campaign, now promoting fondue as the Swiss national dish and as a symbol of Swiss unity and national identity. Fondue even made its way into the cookbooks of the Swiss military. But fondue was unknown in America, the world's largest cheese market. The introduction of fondue to America occurred in 1964 at the New York World's Fair when fondue was featured at the Swiss Pavilion's Alpine restaurant.