So The Wife is sitting on the bed reading “Prague Winter” and I come to her and I say: “What would you like to do for your birthday?”
And she says, “I’d like to go to The Melting Pot.”
And I says, “OK. What’s a The Melting Pot?”
“It’s that fondue restaurant I’ve been wanting you to take me to for years.”
“Oh. I already said OK, didn’t I?”
“Yes. Yes you did.”
Fondue, along with Disco and Watergate, was one of the Great Mistakes of the 1970s. Its origins probably go back further but it really became a thing around here in the Me Decade. The idea, for you young people, is to sit around a pot and stick small bits of food in a pot filled with some kind of hot sauce — usually cheese or chocolate.
The Melting Pot is the McDonald’s of fondue restaurants. In fact, it may be the Burger King and Wendy’s as well. I have no idea how many different brands of fondue restaurants are out there. There’s been one in St. Louis for some time and it’s come up in discussion many times but for some reason we’ve never gone. A few months back The Wife went with some friends and loved it, but for some reason we’ve never gone.
The Wife was determined to go this month, as they were offering a Family Special on Sundays in September: A three-course meal for $24 per person.
Oh yeah, now I remember the reason.
“Twenty-four dollars a person? I could get 48 tacos from Jack in the Box for that price,” I says.
“And you’d die of grease poisoning before you got halfway through them,” she says.
“There’s no such thing as grease poisoning. Is there?”
“Do you think I’m not worth it?”
“I’ll make those reservations right now, dear.”
And so it was that Sunday night The Wife, The Son and I made our way to Town and Country (yes, that’s the actual name of the town) for a 6:15 appointment at The Melting Pot. We were early but we were seated immediately at a large booth with a hot plate in the middle of the table. We were given silverware and three tines each to stab and dip our food.
Now, The Son does not do sauce or condiments of any kind. I don’t think it’s an autism thing, it’s specific to him. But we figured he would eat the food without the sauce, plus that would mean more sauce for The Wife and me.
The first course was bread, veggies and apples with cheese sauce. We went with the standard cheddar cheese sauce, which our waiter prepared in front of us with beer and garlic and some other seasonings. The Son ate raw apples and bread and was content. It was pretty good.
For the main course the waiter brings out a boiling pot of oil of some sort. I’m informed we will be cooking our own meat.
“Excuse me. I’m paying $24 a person and I have to cook my own food? What kind of scam is this?”
“You’re not just paying for the food, you’re paying for the experience.”
“I don’t need to experience salmonella. How will I know if I’ve cooked it enough? What if I don’t cook it enough? I don’t want to die from fondue!”
“You know, fondue restaurants are supposed to foster conversation. I’m pretty sure this isn’t what they had in mind.”
The waiter comes out with three plates of meat: some beef, chicken, pork and shrimp. “Cook the beef, chicken and pork for two minutes; the shrimp for three. Cook the vegetables for as long as you want. Don’t let your fork touch the uncooked meat. If it does, let me know and I’ll get you a new fork.”
“Do you have a stopwatch or a timer?”
“Uh, no. I can see if I can find one.”
“Ignore him. It’s just his way.”
I spear some meat and stick it in the broth. Sadly my watch died earlier in the day (coincidence?) so I had to use my cellphone to time everything. Three minutes later (I’m adding a minute to everything the waiter said. I just don’t trust him. What did he mean, ‘My sympathies?’) I pull out a piece of beef and chicken. Is it OK to cook beef and chicken in the same pot? Is any of this legal? Where’s the health department? Then I stab some more meat and stick it in the pot and look at the watch to check the time. This is going to take all night.
Meanwhile, The Wife is just tossing stuff in and taking it out and never once checking the time and I just don’t understand when it was that I married Daredevil. We survive the main course (Which was actually quite tasty — the sauces they bring out are pretty good. It turns out I’m a decent fondue chef.) and move on to the final round: dessert.
We choose the yin/yang sauce (white and dark chocolate, only with milk chocolate subbing for dark) and they bring it out with a large assortment of treats — rice crispy treats, pound cake, bananas, strawberries, marshmallows and brownies. As usual The Son is devouring the snacks without the added chocolate syrup, which was probably smart — that much chocolate is really much.
We managed to eat everything and had a very pleasant evening. The staff and managers were very attentive. The Son seemed to enjoy himself and The Wife definitely enjoyed herself and isn’t that why I do so many of the crazy things I do?