A fondue is as much a social event as it is a meal. It consists of melted, savory cheese and flavoring in a special fondue pot placed in the center of the table. The guests then spear pieces of bread in the cheese as their meal. There are several varieties of this dish, but basically and traditionally, that's it. To some it may sound a bit odd, but if you've ever been to a dinner of fondue, you know how enjoyable a meal with it can be rather than everybody's usual plate with a meat and side of starch and vegetable.
To begin making a cheese fondue, you generally rub the base of your fondue pot with garlic. If you don't have a fondue pot, a thick saucepot (cast iron if possible) will work. Next add the cheese. You can use straight Gruyere cheese, or a combination of that and/or Beaufort, Emmental, and Comte cheeses. Cover the cheese with a dry white wine and stir over low heat until the cheese has melted. Sometimes lemon juice is added as well for a bit of flavor and helps in the melting of the cheese. You may need to add cornstarch to thicken it a bit. Finally add a little ground pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Traditionally, the dish is also finished with a tiny bit of kirsch. And that's it - your fondue is done. Bring it to the table creamy and hot and place it on your fondue stand. Fondue stands usually have a small sterno to keep it hot - otherwise you may have to run back to the kitchen to reheat the cheese so that it doesn't get stringy. Serve with a good cubed bread - about 1 inch (2.5 cm) square. Although it's not done traditionally, it is also good served with some quartered mushrooms, cubed zucchini, and other similar vegetables. Be forewarned though, cheese fondue is VERY filling, so make sure you have some coffee or tea to calm the stomach at the end of the evening.
The varieties are vast with the dish, including chocolate fondue and meat and seafood fondues. Other than Switzerland, many Asian countries and other countries have their fondues as well. Meat fondue, traditionally known as fondue bourguignonne, is served similarly to cheese fondue. You have a platter of raw meat accompanied by sauces such as aioli, horseradish, tomato, soy-ginger, or even barbecue. The same fondue pot is in the center of the table, this time filled with hot oil. You use the same skewers to pick up the meat, dip it in the oil until cooked, dip in the sauce of choice, and eaten.
Chocolate fondue, probably being found about the most enjoyable, is again the same fondue pot with melted quality chocolate (I recommend Callebaut chocolate), and sometimes flavorings. You can use a variety of fruits, cakes, and pastries for dipping in the chocolate.
Using your imagination there are many other fondue-like creations you can make -- including other dessert fondues and even fish fondues using broth rather than oil. A book I found to have a vast variety of variations is "Fondues From Around the World" by Eva and Ulrich Klever ($10.36): http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0812013719/christianchefsfe