Wednesday, January 28, 2009

12 Minutes

At 8:48 yesterday morning I looked up at the clock on the wall and seriously thought that I might:
1. Power vomit
2. Spontaneously combust
3. Die
4. All of the above

Sweat did not drip--it spewed--from every pore. I am guesstimating my heart rate was around 1,900 beats per minute. I gasped for air as if I was being waterboarded. My only rational thought was "Why? Why, Dear God...Why must I suffer so?"

I turned to the woman sitting next to me (who had an equally pained expression on her face, as if she was eighteen hours into a epidural-free labor) but my parched lips and pasty tongue were unable to form any distinguishable words, so I simply groaned. She looked at me, and although she was also gulping oxygen like a reeled-in carp, she somehow managed to find the strength to croak, "Only twelve more minutes left. We can do anything for twelve minutes."

And with those twelve words, I suddenly had the strength to go on.

No, I was not in my local emergency room, having eaten a rogue bad clam on Arthur Avenue the night before. Nor was I exposed to raw sewage, radioactive waste, Anthrax, or alien probes. Instead, I was at my 8:15 a.m. spin class, with the Spin Instructor from Hell--a former marine with the demeanor of a starved pit bull, the warmth of a pit viper, the compassion of Jeffrey Dahmer. And yes--I chose to be there.

Yet after 33 minutes, I began to question not his, but my sanity. "What in the world do I do this for, week after week, year after year?" I thought. "Am I out of my mind?" I wondered with what few neurons still fired upstairs, why I relentlessly tortured myself and my poor, middle-aged, gravity-weary body. Was it for that extra slice of cheesecake?...that second helping of pasta?...that crusty French bread dipped in that cheesy fondue? Yes...yes...and yes, again.

And with that confirmation, I mouthed a silent thank you to my spin partner for helping to get me over my 33 minute hump. Because what's twelve minutes of your life, when there's a warm, comforting fondue waiting for you on the other side?

Classic Cheese Fondue (PRINT RECIPE CARD)
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons kirsch liqueur
2 cups (1/2 lb) Gruyère cheese, grated
2 cups (1/2 lb) Emmental cheese, grated

For dipping:
Cubes of French bread
Sliced apples
Boiled red potatoes
Blanched broccoli florets
Sliced red peppers

Combine the cornstarch and kirsch in a small cup and set aside.

Rub the inside of a 4-quart heavy pot with the garlic, then discard. Place the pot over medium heat, add the white wine, and bring to a simmer.

Gradually add the cheese to the pot and cook, mixing constantly using a zigzag (not circular) motion, until the mixture becomes creamy (do not let the cheese boil!). Slowly stir in the cornstarch/kirsch mixture, then bring fondue to a simmer, stirring in the zigzag pattern for about 5-8 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened. Transfer to a fondue pot set over a flame + serve with bread, fruit and vegetables for dipping.

Serves 4

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