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April 24, 2004: Good food, but friends are better

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I think I might have mentioned something about this earlier, but I’ve been sort of the driving force behind trying to get a social group going for the 20’s and 30’s at our church. We weren’t having much success at all (the ‘group’ was only Richard and I and another couple), but with the advent of the bible study, suddenly we had a good sized crowd. A mention of our Valentine’s dinner at the fondue place in Sacramento spurred fondue envy from a few of the others, and eventually it all culminated in a planned event – a fondue party at the church for all the 20’s and 30’s. And even with a handful of them not able to come for various reasons, we still had a dozen people excitedly looking forward to eating melted cheese and chocolate from a pot.

We decided to do three different cheese fondues and three different chocolates. I managed to get the rest of the crowd to volunteer to bring all the dipping items, and even foisted off the making of two of the fondues on someone else, but that still left four for me. So for a short time last night I wandered around the store with a little list and peered at all the cheeses I usually do not even let myself notice because I adore cheese, but cheese is not Point friendly. Gruyere. Fontina. Emmenthal Swiss. Sharp Cheddar and Romano. Mmm. Cheese. I filled up my basket, detoured down the baking aisle to grab bags of chocolate chips and jars of caramel sauce, and then got to do something I have never done before: pick out a bottle of wine.

This being a church-sponsored function, normally it would never have involved any sort of alcohol at all, but cheese fondues are made with white wine. And since I know there is an actual reason for using wine or beer in fondue (something about how it makes the cheeses blend better or something), I discussed it with a few people and we decided that as long as the fondues were made before they were actually brought to the church (whereupon the alcohol would have all cooked off anyway), we’d be fine. However, I have never in my life purchased a bottle of wine (since frankly I just don’t like the taste of alcoholic beverages and figure I’m far more fun on caffeine anyway), I was a bit at a loss as to what to get. Luckily I found a sympathetic woman who pointed me in the direction of a nice, cheap white wine.

The fun didn’t stop there. Since we are not normally a wine-drinking household (Richard has the occasional Guinness but that’s about as far as it goes) it had not even occurred to me that opening the bottle might be problematic…until I peeled off the paper top and discovered that it came with a cork. A hasty search through the drawers of miscellaneous kitchen accessories revealed that we do not own a corkscrew, or anything resembling a corkscrew. Luckily Richard’s pocketknife has one, or else I might still be gouging out bits of cork from the stupid bottle with a chisel.

The house smelled divinely of cheese for several hours today, what with the shredding and the stirring and the cooking. I collected our fondue pot and the one I borrowed from my parents, we loaded the car with a hefty selection of board games from our even larger assortment, and headed off to the church to meet up with our friend (the one who’s painting the tree on our breakfast nook wall) who got there early as well to make beignets. I would like to point out right now that beignets are incredibly good in chocolate fondue.

It was a wonderful evening. As I mentioned, there were a dozen of us, and we set up the fondue pots in the kitchen, then milled around between them, from one counter to the next, tasting and dipping and stuffing ourselves until it’s a wonder we didn’t all explode. Then once we had eaten as much cheese as we could possibly handle – and to get ourselves away from the cheese so we wouldn’t keep eating more – we all crowded around a table and played games. And just when we thought we’d finally recovered from the overeating of the cheese, it was time for the chocolate – a straight dark chocolate, chocolate with peanut butter and chocolate with caramel stirred in. I think the entire crowd ate themselves into possible food comas. Even the kids seemed a bit overwhelmed with the sheer amount of food available.

It was a wonderful evening, over all. Everyone lingered, helping clean the kitchens and wipe down tables, chatting and laughing and getting to know the newer additions to our group. We’re already talking about our next ‘organized’ event – a barbeque/camp fire evening out on one of our friends’ ranch.

There is a feeling of relief about tonight, and I know that I am not the only one who feels it. Two other women and I were standing around talking, and one of the others mentioned how hard it has been to meet people since leaving college. And the other replied with a laugh “Yes. It’s nice to finally have friends.”

That’s it exactly. I’ve wanted this for so very long that it’s strange to think it might finally be real.

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