The Great Omelet Hero Quest
Once, a very long time ago, I desperately wanted a job at Vogue as an assistant to their food editor. I went to the library and there, spread out on the floor, read just about every food column ever written in the magazine. The one that has really stayed with me all these years later, was the writer’s attempts to make the perfect omelet, and the omelet quest seemed more like a hero quest. It was all such a test of fortitude, so maddeningly just out of reach, as if the writer were flying on the back of Falcor trying to get to gain access to Fantasia. I didn’t have enough cooking experience at the time to know better, and didn’t have enough real world experience to not buy the whole thing hook, line, and sinker. Omelets are the province of the truly skilled! Once you can make an omelet you’ve really made it!
There is a lot to be said for knowing the rules before you break them (pretty much the reason I’m doing this Grand Diplôme thing to begin with), and Escoffier would probably slap me if he could hear me say this, but I don’t think cooking is codified. One of the many reasons why Ratatouille is such a delightful movie is because it’s so empowering; just as Auguste Gusteau encouragingly proclaims, anyone can cook. And even the most classically trained chefs can go about the same dish differently.
My all-time favorite cooking series is Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. Julia’s hilariously curt witticisms and Jacques’ easy response to her unpredictability make this show pure entertainment. But what’s most encouraging and freeing is seeing two culinary greats, cooking side by side, and going about everything differently.
A good omelet is a wonderful thing and the making of one at home is a great accomplishment of quick agility and decisiveness. But to act like the process of making an omelet is set in stone, the completion of which gains you access to the next level of cooking mastery just makes it all seem so scary. Cooking doesn’t have to be scary; cooking is elemental. Everyone can cook. Everyone can make omelets. And there are as many different methods as there are fillings, but there’s one helpful hint that seems to remain constant across the board: it all happens faster than you think, so pay attention. But come to think of it, that’s not only true for omelets.