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The Fondues and Don’ts

An etiquette expert’s guide to the ins and outs of eating fondue among friends and strangers

Three people smile as they sit around a table with two fondue pots and one hot pot in front of them. Two people are dipping food into the pots. Haley Hunt Davis/Eater
Rebecca Flint Marx is the editor of Eater at Home. Her areas of expertise include home cooking and popular culture.

While fondue invites pretty much any food you want to dip into it, eating it is hardly an anything-goes endeavor. Like any communal dish, fondue comes with certain rules of consumption that must be observed — at least if you want to avoid alienating everyone who’s eating it with you. For the ins and outs of proper etiquette, we turned to an expert: Sara Jane Ho, the host of Netflix’s Mind Your Manners and the founder of Institute Sarita, China’s first etiquette school. Ho’s new book, Mind Your Manners comes out in April.

What are your personal rules for eating communal foods like fondue?

My biggest pet peeve is double dipping. Also, with fondue, everybody has their own fork. When you [dip something], it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t take it straight to your mouth. One of the biggest no-nos is to smack your lips around the fondue fork as you pull off the food. You should be treating the fondue fork as a serving item — you should take your knife or [regular] fork and remove the food to your own plate. Unless it’s chocolate fondue and it’s your lover and you don’t mind swapping spit.

Is there a good way to call out someone who’s double dipping or eating straight off their fondue fork?

You kind of can’t. I mean, if it’s your kid you should be disciplining them but if it’s an important guest then it’s difficult because you’d be pointing out they’re doing something wrong and that makes them lose face. But what you can do is say, ‘Oh I always used to think you’re supposed to put the fork in your mouth and then a Swiss person pointed out that you don’t.’ So you show that you’ve made that mistake before, like, ‘I was doing it wrong for 30 years!’

How about if people are taking more than their fair share of food?

The way to do this is to crack a joke and be like, ‘Hey, leave some for the rest of us!’ You’re kind of shaming them but making it a funny joke. See what they say — if you want to let them wallow, or, let’s say they’re an important guest, then you can immediately change topic afterwards and then be like, ‘Oh, have you seen The Brothers Sun?

Will people take the hint?

People will know.

What do you do if someone shows up exhibiting signs of a cold? Or what do you do if you’re not feeling well?

If you’re sick you should say, ‘I’m not feeling well, could we just carve out a little bowl for me? I want to make sure I don’t infect anyone.’ If you see someone visibly sick and packing [food] away I would actually just make it seem really spontaneous and disbelieving; make it seem like you haven’t thought about this. Like, ‘Wait, are you sick? Should we be sharing food with you?’ Make it seem really spontaneous; don’t make it seem premeditated.

Haley Hunt Davis is a Los Angeles- and Atlanta-based commercial photographer and director specializing in food and product.
Ryan Norton is a Los Angeles-based food stylist and recipe developer.