12 Surprisingly Delicious Items to Dip in Fondue

iStock.com/Solstock
iStock.com/Solstock

Dipping items in a communal pot of gooey, warm, melted cheese or chocolate can be a fun experience, and full restaurants have capitalized on the trend. Common dippers for cheese fondue include cubes of bread, apple slices, and raw vegetables. With chocolate fondue, you’re probably familiar with typical dippers such as strawberries, marshmallows, and pretzels. But if you want to take your fondue experience up a notch, making it way more interesting and creative, check out these 12 surprisingly delicious items to dip in fondue.

1. BEEF JERKY

Dessert jerky, anyone? Although you might have already dipped cubes of steak or ham into cheese fondue, try using beef jerky as a dipper. You can certainly try pieces of beef jerky with cheese fondue, but the combination of the salty jerky with the salty melted cheese might give you sodium overload. To get a uniquely sweet, salty taste, a la chocolate-covered bacon, dip beef or turkey jerky into chocolate fondue.

2. STEAMED VEGETABLES

Crudités are a common cheese fondue option, but you can get more creative by using steamed veggies as dippers instead. Try steaming carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and celery, or branch out by using cooked mushrooms, artichoke hearts, green beans, or asparagus tips.

3. AVOCADO

Avocados are creamy, rich, and healthy, and pair surprisingly well with chocolate fondue. Vegan dessert recipes often use avocado in place of butter due to its creamy consistency, and avocado dipped in chocolate is a great match. Because ripe avocados can be soft and a bit messy, though, you might want to put cubes of avocado in the freezer before dipping them in chocolate.

4. INSECTS

The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium in New Orleans serves chocolate fondue … with insects as dippers. Visitors gather around a chocolate fondue fountain and dip toothpicks with crickets and wax worms into the chocolate. The nutty flavor of the insects reportedly pairs well with the warm chocolate.

5. PASTA

Rather than ordering a plate of macaroni and cheese, just add some chunkier pasta to your cheese fondue spread. So that you don't lose your piece of pasta in the vat of melted cheese, choose firm pasta shapes that are not too small or too long—and ones you can easily skewer. Ravioli, tortellini, and rigatoni work well, but you can also experiment with farfalle, rotelle, or fusilli.

6. JALAPEÑO PEPPERS

Spicy and sweet is a popular flavor combination, so why not dip jalapeños into chocolate fondue? Make sure to take the seeds out of the peppers if you want them slightly less hot, and use gloves so you don’t irritate your skin.

7. MINT LEAVES

If you like York Peppermint Patties, try dipping mint leaves into chocolate fondue. Look for fresh sprigs of mint, and hold the sprig by its stem to dip it into the chocolate. Either eat it straight up, wait until the chocolate hardens, or use the chocolate-covered mint leaves as a topper on another dessert such as ice cream or a slice of pie.

8. CURED MEATS

Rather than dipping kebobs of cooked chicken or beef into cheese fondue, try using cured meats instead for a different flavor profile. The options are many, but you can start with cubes or chunks of salami, soppressata, or chorizo. If you have slices of cured meat rather than chunks, you can simply wrap the slice around a thick skewer. Also, cooked bacon in chocolate fondue will attain a salty and sweet taste combo, and if the bacon is crispy enough, it can act as its own skewer.

9. POTATOES AND POTATO CHIPS

Roasted baby potatoes are the perfect size for dipping into cheese fondue, and the taste is similar to a cheesy baked potato. You don’t have to stop with roasted potatoes, though. Try potato chips (use tongs to dip them), potato skins, or thick-cut French fries—dipping these into cheese or chocolate tastes great. Not sure if you’ll like the taste of potatoes plus chocolate? Lay's makes milk chocolate covered potato chips, which will give you a good idea of how potatoes and chocolate fondue will taste.

10. PICKLES

Pickles and cheese make a surprisingly delicious combination. Although you can dip any type of gherkin into fondue, cornichons reportedly work quite well because of their size and crunchiness. Just make sure they're not straight out of the jar—you don't want too much brine pooling in the cheese pot.

11. FROZEN FRUIT

Soft fruits such as mango, kiwi, peach, and papaya might be difficult to dip into chocolate fondue without the fruit dissolving or getting lost in the gooey pot. But these fruits taste delicious with a chocolate coating, so simply cut up bite-sized pieces of fruit and freeze them. They’ll be much easier to dip, and you can pat yourself on the back for eating your daily serving of fruits (even if they are covered in chocolate).

12. BALLS OF COOKIE DOUGH

Pieces of cake, brownies, and cookies are commonly dipped in chocolate fondue, but balls of cookie dough are an all-too-often overlooked alternative. Make your favorite type of cookie dough (chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, peanut butter, and oatmeal work well), roll the dough into balls, and dip them into a pot of melted chocolate. To save time, just buy prepackaged frozen cookie dough and let it thaw a little before dipping. The warm chocolate with the cold cookie dough is delightful.

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

What Really Happens When Food Goes Down the 'Wrong Pipe'?

The dreaded 'wrong pipe' calamity can strike at any time.
The dreaded 'wrong pipe' calamity can strike at any time.
Photo by Adrienn from Pexels

Your average person isn’t expected to be well-versed in the linguistics of human anatomy, which is how we wind up with guns for biceps and noggins for heads. So when swallowing something is followed by throat irritation or coughing, the fleeting bit of discomfort is often described as food “going down the wrong pipe.” But what’s actually happening?

When food is consumed, HuffPost reports, more than 30 muscles activate to facilitate chewing and swallowing. When the food is ready to leave your tongue and head down to your stomach, it’s poised near the ends of two "pipes," the esophagus and the trachea. You want the food to take the esophageal route, which leads to the stomach. Your body knows this, which is why the voice box and epiglottis shift to close off the trachea, the “wrong pipe” of ingestion.

Since we don’t typically hold our breath when we eat, food can occasionally take a wrong turn into the trachea, an unpleasant scenario known as aspiration, which triggers an adrenaline response and provokes coughing and discomfort. Dislodging the food usually eases the sensation, but if it’s enough to become stuck, you have an obstructed airway and can now be officially said to be choking.

The “wrong pipe” can also be a result of eating while tired or otherwise distracted or the result of a mechanical problem owing to illness or injury.

You might also notice that this happens more often with liquids. A sip of water may provoke a coughing attack. That’s because liquids move much more quickly, giving the body less time to react.

In extreme cases, food or liquids headed in the “wrong” direction can wind up in the lungs and cause pneumonia. Fortunately, that’s uncommon, and coughing tends to get the food moving back into the esophagus.

The best way to minimize the chances of getting food stuck is to avoid talking with your mouth full—yes, your parents were right—and thoroughly chew sensible portions.

If you experience repeated bouts of aspiration, it’s possible an underlying swallowing disorder or neurological problem is to blame. An X-ray or other tests can help diagnose the issue.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.