Queso Fundido

by Kathryn Baldwin


Last week, my family said “see you soon” to our grandfather who passed away watching a Cubs game at age 85. Art Bonwell was the cofounder of the Save Mount Diablo Foundation and also built the foundation my father needed to raise his own healthy family.

This week, my boyfriend’s family said “hello” to four squeaking, new-born puppies. Nala, the yorkie-mix mother, gave birth Monday, right at her favorite part of the day (dinner time, duh), and has been tending to the wobbly crew ever since.

There is something so beautiful about life. Each Good-bye can be soothed by another Hello.

This week of contrasts that left me contemplating the wisdom of old age and the sweetness of youth, led me to the perfect culinary parallel: cheese! After all, what other food is beautiful fresh AND beautiful, if not more so, in old age?

So after the puppies were born, I had the crazy idea to try Marcella Vallodolid’s recipe and MAKE fresh cheese from milk. To make a long story short, I FAILED. Here is the sad story in picture form:

On the way home from work the next day, I went to a local Mexican grocery store (Las Montañas) to buy 5 ingredients from the gods: Oaxaca cheese, Mexican Chorizo, a white onion, fresh garlic, and a stack of tortillas. My mood soared the moment I dropped the ingredients in my basket.

The first time I ate “Queso Fundido” was with my boyfriend’s family in Guadalajara, Mexico. A mini, cast iron dish arrived at the table with steaming cheese, a fork, and warm, flour tortillas. I remember asking what it was called. I also remember immediately responding, “Queso Qué?!”  Queso means cheese, of course (and if you don’t know that, you’re name is Patrick Star and you live under a rock). I know now that the word “Fundido” means melted (although the same word can be used as “molten” or “ruined,” but this isn’t a linguistics blog…).

Mexican Mozzarella from the Oaxaca region:

After the cheese stops bubbling from it’s quick oven bake, you can stick a fork in it and twist the cheese like caramel or taffy. Pull the molten cheese from the hardening puddle and then squeeze the warm glob between a piece of soft tortilla.

Slide the cheese off, as though it’s a roasted marshmallow sliding off of a stick between two graham crackers. In another country, we may call this fondue; In Mexico, it’s Queso Fundido. And remember to indulge in the mess. It’s part of the Mexican way, after all!

Follow Marcella Valladolid’s recipe from “Mexican Made Easy.”

I used more onion because I like it better that way! If you want to make the appetizer a more fun experience for guests, have avocado slices, cilantro, lime, and salsa around to add to each bite. Lead the way: show the crowd how each bite can be just as unique and delicious as it is messy.

Tomorrow you can search for the wiser, aged cheeses of life to learn something new from. Today, we thank the universe for the fresh cheeses of life.

In Loving Memory of Art Bonwell. Thank you for being the link of wisdom that our family needed.

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3 Comments to “Queso Fundido”

  1. Sorry for your loss, Kathryn. My sister has just started interning at Save Mt. Diablo, so we went on a guided hike the other day. Its weird to think about it, but Art was on the hike too and I didn’t even know it. Life is strange like that I guess. Anyways, hope you’re doing okay. You’ve still got at least one faithful reader (me!) so I wanna see my weekly Thursday post!

  2. Beautiful parallels, my darling daughter! Thank you for honoring Art for all of us. AND, above a dish of Queso Fundido -with a beer in one hand and a tortilla in the other -is the perfect gathering place after work for family and friends!

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