K.M. makes amazing omelets. Perfect in texture, creamy on your tongue, and always with fillings that give the eggs an extra pop – blue cheese, chilies, sausages, or maybe smoked salmon. His omelets are the classic American type – oversized and finished in a hot oven where they always rise to an incredible height; the perfect way to start a lazy weekend day.
Living alone, I’ve missed them. And my own attempt to create one last week, while it hit all the right notes in taste, was pretty messy to look at and had all the height of a flat bike tire.
It wasn’t always so. Before K.M. and I got together, I too could make a great omelet- something more akin to the French style –light, fluffy, and almost entirely about the interplay between egg and cheese. But like K.M.’s omelets mine always rose beautifully.
I learned to make omelets from my Dad. He only cooked a few things, steaks on the grill, split pea soup, and every few weeks a Sunday morning omelet. As a kid, he was my hero, so I absorbed the finer points of grilling and omelet making at an early age and continued to work hard through adolescence to perfect my technique and earn Dad’s approval. (I wouldn’t even taste the split pea soup. I assumed it was a new way of presenting the frozen peas that were my mother’s standby vegetable of choice, something I had to be forced to eat, probably twice a week, for at least 10 years.)
The older I got, the less Dad and I saw eye to eye on anything. But, we could still make omelets together, and in college I enjoyed showing off my egg mastery, anytime I could get near a kitchen with the right equipment. And I’d write to Dad, (yes, I actually wrote letters home by hand), and tell him how it went. I didn’t tell him much else about my life.
Elizabeth David, in her classic essay, “An Omelet and a Glass of Wine,” describes the endless speculation in French culinary circles about the magic element, be it ingredient or technique, the essential something that is assumed to be the secret behind the revered omelets served at a hotel in Normandy. Of course, as David reveals, there is no secret. Simply patience, and first rate ingredients, and in my mind, lame as it sounds, probably love, if not for the hotel’s patrons, than of the process itself.
Like my husband (special pan – not a fancy “omelet pan”, but a dedicated, nonstick pan with the right slope to the sides, dedicated solely to this craft,) my Dad had an omelet secret – beer. K.M. doesn’t buy it, but I do – I know it worked like a charm in the old days. I made my failed omelet with No Doubt Stout, from the Elliott Bay Brewing Company. Dad was more likely to have been pouring Rainer.
Dad died before I could forge any kind of an adult relationship with him or even know if such a relationship was possible. And given last week’s omelet failure, it looks like his amazing ability with eggs is gone forever too. I’ll stick to my own poached eggs on chicken sausage hash which makes a wonderful dinner with a glass of stout.
But every time I eat one of K.M.’s omelet’s I’ll continue to think of my Dad, and how lucky I am to have another extraordinary man in my life, who is capable of performing magic with eggs, whatever the secret.