It must have something to do with the fact that I was born in a pure vegetarian, brahmin household.
Or maybe it has something to do with my mother who was perhaps coerced into breaking her vows and deigning to rustle up an omelette to supplement my childhood diet…and the omelette was the cleanest egg preparation she could learn to make.
After all, she just cracked the eggs open, whipped up the stuff and imagine that she was making a masala dosa. Once the bottom was done she would pour the tomatoes, the onions etc. into the middle and then cross flip the edges to make an ‘omelette a la kiev’ or something to that effect. Soon she had transferred the task of beating the eggs to us kids and it was not long before we were encouraged to make our own.
I must admit that our first omelettes were grossly out shaped disasters but we struggled on, and since we did not have access to cooks in real life or on youtube, we relied on word of mouth lessons that were few and far between.
Somewhere along the line we discovered what we used to call the South Indian Dhaba Omelette. The eggs were broken into a steel tumbler (don’t miss) and beaten with a spoon into a liquid that was then given the benefit of salt and mirchi powder in generous proportions. This was poured into a heated up dollop of oil in a deep pan and the omelette floated into our lives. Quite tasty mind you but even then we were concerned about the oil content.
As we grew into our lives we realised that there are better and more correct ways of making omelettes. The hotel breakfast at many exotic locations exposed us to the fluffy, the golden, the masala, the cheese, the spanish and the European varieties and showed us how the addition of fringe benefits made the world of a difference – sausages, bacon, mashed potatoes etc.
Friendly chefs taught us how to whip eggs, how to fold the yellows into the whites…how to add the secret butter cube to the egg mix and even how to toss the omelette in the pan.
In the process we also discovered monstrosities like the Kerala Coconut Omelette which I think tastes a bit like the top of a Mallu’s head in a sweaty Madras bus and smells exactly the same.
As a result we formed independent opinions – about how someone liked onions and tomatoes in their stuffed omelettes, and how someone didn’t. The role of cheese, the different herbs and spices that could be added and so on. Naturally our home made omelette underwent generations of change as various elements from international cuisine were integrated into our signature breakfast delicacy. There was even a time when we used to call friends over for Sunday morning breakfast and the omelette was presented with a flourish. Though this may be a good time to apologise to some friends who came expecting omelettes but were served an unholy crumble of sorts when we went wrong with the consistency.
Naturally the kids loved our omelettes and would swear by them. They had yet to learn the art on their own. But that was short lived euphoria. Soon they had experienced their own brand of omelette heaven and started experimenting themselves.
Did we lose interest in omelette making when we discovered that the kids now had a mind of their own and were actually passing judgement on OUR omelettes? Perhaps…but soon, omelette making was a task passed onto the cook.
And that’s where this story starts. Amina, our Muslim Cook (we have always tried to hire two cooks, one muslim and one hindu, so that we could have a variety of dishes on the table) made omelettes in a typical Hyderabadi fashion. This meant she collected all the ingredients, minced them into a fine stuffing, mixed it into the egg whip and almost deep fried the omelette. I suspect that this was a recipe given to her by a Punjabi trying to teach her how to make stuffed puris, but let that be.
Amina’s omelettes, however crazy they sound, taste fantastic. She mixes her stuff in proportions only she knows and she is not prepared to share. She adds salt and pepper to her taste and she cooks her omelettes in a pan full of oil. The omelettes are fairly round and sufficiently browned. They ooze oil but that actually gives the omelette a juicy feel. And we all love it. The kids, the wife, even the Dog.
So thank you Tarla Dalal, thank you Sanjeev Kapoor. Thank you Master Chef Australia and the rest of the world. You can take a farewell bow. We’ve discovered that making omelettes is an art form and is mastered only by people who believe that the only finishing school they should cater to, are the people at their tables who demolish the food with more efficiency than American SWAT teams and with more finesse than James Bond.