Archived Story

The omelet — sometimes spelled omelette

Published 9:28pm Tuesday, June 5, 2012

So you think you know what an omelet is — sometimes spelled omelette! The dictionary defines it as “a dish consisting of eggs beaten up, often with milk or water, and cooked in a frying pan.” That pretty well coincides with my definition of an omelet — sometimes spelled omelette — but I use water for a better texture and would add the word fluffy to the description.

But when my husband and I were in south India, we ran into a different kind of omelet — sometimes spelled omelette. We were in that exotic, Asian country as volunteers for three months to teach and train. We lived in a lovely guesthouse and were well taken care of, but some people don’t know how to make an omelet — sometimes spelled omelette.

Most Indians are of the Hindu faith, and many of the Hindu faith are vegetarians. Hindu vegetarians do not allow meat nor food related to meat to be prepared in their kitchens, but with this being a guesthouse with people of many faiths staying there, a small, second kitchen had been set up where meat and foods related to meat were allowed to be prepared.

Now, it is apparent the egg is related to a meat (chicken, if you haven’t figured it out). An egg could not be cooked in the main kitchen. But a cook/houseboy would prepare an egg in the tiny kitchen at the end of the long hall.

When my husband and I would appear for breakfast in the dining room, Velu would inquire what we would like to eat.  Sometimes he suggested an omelet — sometimes spelled omelette. The day came when Hubby said an omelet would be great — but what he got was a hard, fried egg: an egg cooked on one side, then flipped over, the yolk broken and cooked on the other side. That is not an omelet — sometimes spelled omelette.

After Velu had prepared his version of an omelet a couple times, I offered to show him how I make an American omelet — sometimes spelled omelette. (Indians usually refer to our country as America rather than the United States.) Velu smiled his consent; Indians are always gracious.

First, I shopped for a frying pan the size I wanted to prepare an American omelet — sometimes spelled omelette. With Velu standing by, I broke several eggs into a bowl, added about a tablespoon of water for each egg and a bit of ghee (Indian butter). This I stirred vigorously and poured into my greased frying pan over medium heat. As the egg mixture began to cook, I lifted the edges with a spatula to let the uncooked egg run underneath. The omelet took on a fluffy consistency.

When cooked thoroughly, I spread half the omelet with a good Indian jelly, folded it over and pronounced this a sweet omelet — sometimes spelled omelette — ready to be served. Velu took it all in, but he failed to show much enthusiasm.

“An omelet is supposed to be fluffy,” I pointed out to him.

He shrugged.

“I do not know fluffy,” he said.

While it is not uncommon for Indians to speak English, and do it well, there may be words not yet in their vocabularies — like fluffy. How does one describe fluffy? I looked out the tiny window in the little egg-cooking kitchen. Pointing to the cloud puffs in the sky, I explained to Velu that clouds are fluffy, as should be an omelet — sometimes spelled omelette.

From that day on, when Hubby would ask for an omelet for breakfast, Velu would ask, “You want omelet like I make or omelet like Madam makes?”

It wasn’t till I returned to the United States (excuse me, America) that I checked a dictionary as to the definition of fluffy. I was delighted to find: “fluffy: Being light and soft or airy, like an omelet.”

Isn’t it wonderful being right?

As for the “Madam” bit, in India I was always addressed as Madam, as a sign of respect, I was told.  However, my husband was always Mr.  “Why can’t I be Mrs. or Miss?” I inquired.

“Oh, no, that would not be appropriate.”

After one “Madam” too many, I advised the guesthouse manager that in America the title madam is often used to refer to the female head of a house of prostitution. I got lifted eyebrows and pursed lips, but I continued to be madam the whole time I was in India.

As for Velu, as far as I know he still makes hard, fried egg omelets — sometimes spelled omelettes — which they are not.

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