HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >

Discussion

When Did Omelets Become Fairly Common in American Home Cooking?

http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodeggs....

I recently saw a 1957 Gregory peck/Lauren Bacall comedy called Desiging Woman, in which she cooks him an omelet (caveat- in the film,as in real life, she came from class and wealth; and the film took place in NYC.) In my head, i had omelets becoming commonplace in the U.S. later than this.

The site above shows omelet recipes in the 1965 NYTimes Cookbook, followed by JuliaChild in 1972.

Anybody know when they became somewhat mainstream/frequently found in home kitchens?? Thnx much.

p.s. maybe in Hollywood and CA. in general, home cooking was culinarily ahead of 'Mainstream America' ? ( I know this is produce related, but produce does go hand in hand w/ cooking: my mom and dad, from Va. and New Orl., never tasted artichokes until they met in CA. after WWII.)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. As opposed to scrambled eggs?

    3 Replies
    1. re: bbqboy

      How is that relevant to the question?

      1. re: virtualguthrie

        I suppose because folks have probably been putting stuff in eggs for as long as they have been eating eggs, and the idea that California led some postwar trend in omelets, among other things, struck me as amusing.

        1. re: bbqboy

          at the bottom of the foodtimeline.org page for eggs, they go on to talk about scrambled eggs...where this appears:

          "We know that Ancient Romans scrambled eggs (ie, broke the yolks and mixed them with the albumen), mixed them up with vegetables and spices, and baked them. These were the first omelettes. "

          A rose by any other name, etc., etc., etc....

          But somehow Hollywood will try to take the credit, anyway....

    2. I started in 1977. A new roommate brought an omelet pan with her, and showed me how.

      1. I grew up in the 50's and 60's with omelets .

        3 Replies
          1. re: magiesmom

            Me too. my mom used to make crepes and big square puffy omelets in a big square electric skillet once or twice a month- I loved them. That would be in the late 1960s and early to mid 1960s.

            1. re: magiesmom

              Same here. My mom was making me omelets before I was even old enough to go to school, which would place that around 1960.

            2. There are various styles of omelets (see the recent 'best omelet' thread). The quick cooked French style probably became popular with Julia Child (I learned it from Joy of Cooking in the early 1970s). But coffee shops and diners were serving omelets (e.g. Denver omelet) much earlier. The hangtown fry dates to the California goldrush days (1850s).
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omelette

              2 Replies
              1. re: paulj

                thanks for that link. i was looking for your hangtown fry reference but it's not there; what is a hangtown fry?

              2. In an episode of MASH, Colonel Potter has a "Western Omelet." Episode was probably from the mid-to-late 70s, but if the scriptwriters were scrupulously historically accurate--no sure thing!--then omelets in US cuisine would date to no later then the early 50s insofar as that's when the Korean War occurred.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                  And Bunter made omelets for Lord Peter in the 1920-30s - not for breakfast, but as a quick supper at odd late night hours.

                  1. re: paulj

                    paul, love the wiki piece you linked;thnx. weren't bunter and LP british characters?

                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                      I debated commenting on the Britishness of the characters and author. But Sayers doesn't write of omelets as though they were exotic imports from France.

                      According to Google's word search
                      http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?...
                      the more British spelling, omelette, peaked in popularity in English fiction around 1930. Also from that, I don't see big differences between American and British usages over time.

                      http://books.google.com/books?id=OmAE...
                      is cookbook from about 1910, with about a dozen omelet recipes, differing mostly in filling (including one with rhubarb).

                      Curiously in American usage there is a drop around 1960, with a climb since then.

                      1. re: paulj

                        well paul, you have some talented researcher chops there! fascinating. below is a link to the graph done for AMERICAN english books. i have no idea what books they are using for this data,and i won't confuse books with actual home kitchen practices, but this is still very interesting. maybe i'll call Reference at the schlesinger library at radcliffe. my 102 years old grandmother would have been helpful with this question but she died 20 years ago. thnx paul.

                        http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?...

                  2. re: Perilagu Khan

                    Enjoyed eating Western omelets no later than 1957 in Brooklyn at a luncheonette in Bensonhurst near my dentist. Then I thought that ketchup was an essential accompaniment, Soon after we did the classical French-style omelet at home as demonstrated by Julia Child on The French Chef.

                  3. Waaay back when I was in high school, we had cooking class as part of home ec. Omelets were one of the first things we learned, and actually, the only one I remember.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: purple bot

                      That was my thought exactly--a cheese omelet was the first thing we learned in home ec (mid-70s) and my classmates and I had all had them at home.

                    2. since omelettes have been around since Ancient Persia or so -- and the word appeared in the French language in the 17th century, and a recipe was published (courtesy of your link) in London in 1685, it's not a big stretch to figure that omelets came to the US with the first settlers and explorers...

                      It's a cheap, easy-to-prepare, yet nutritious way to fill the hole -- so I figure they've been popular (allowing for the natural ebb and flow of fashions) ever since.

                      1. http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodeggs....

                        Scroll down to see the section on "omelettes."

                        Doesn't say when they first became popular, but it does say when, and where, the recipes first appeared in cookbooks published in the U.S.

                        1. From early childhood (1950's), I remember my grandmother making me jelly omelets with Welch's grape jelly and a side of home fries. Come to think of it, I haven't seen a jelly omelet on a diner menu in decades. But beaten eggs sauteed in butter and spread with a Tbs. of jelly before folding it over was a childhood staple.
                          CP
                          P.S. @ Perilagu Khan. The MASH script writers were not adamant about research for historical accuracy. One episode featured a photographer using a Hasselblad - a camera not invented until 1958. So, Potter's "Western" omelet may be a similar lapse in fact finding.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Chefpaulo

                            as to MASH, i would say "uh oh. Trouble in River City."

                            but i'm thinking more about my question. WWII affected so many things in our culture. Maybe the GIs brought back omelet experiences from the war, and helped the omelet go mainstream here.
                            (of course, maybe not- . maybe it was earlier than the 50s. we shall continue to probe.)

                          2. The 1896 edition of Fannie Merritt Farmer's THE BOSTON COOKING-SCHOOL COOK BOOK, which is posted on Michigan State University's Feeding America website, offers 9 recipes for omelets. The 1918 edition is posted on bartleby.com; it offers 13 or 14 recipes.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Allstonian

                              Here's my 2 cents: In the movie "Sabrina" (1954, I believe), Audrey Hepburn goes to cooking school in France, brings back her expertise and training to crack eggs to make an omelet for Humphrey Bogart.

                              1. re: aurora50

                                of course! and lauren learned from her husband's co-star and then had them put into her 1957 script. of course! now this all finally makes sense...:-}

                            2. 1850

                              http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodpione...

                              1853 Weekly menu for middle-class home has omelet for Wed, Fri and Sunday breakfast

                              http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodpione...
                              1849 upscale restaurant menu in San Francisco has ' rum omelette, jelly omelette' deserts, at a pricey $2 (more than the entrees)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: paulj

                                Interesting.

                                However, what caught my eye more was the ridiculous amount of food proffered to Queen Victoria in the section further down... :-)

                              2. Funnily enough, I made omelettes (kind of) this evening for a group of about 8 friends...

                                Basically, what I did was a western/Denver omelette (with cheddar), and I placed each into a buttered and toasted hoagie roll. Then, as is sometimes customary 'round these parts, I topped the sandwiches with homemade fries, vinegary coleslaw, and a couple slices of tomato. They were delicious!

                                Interestingly, as I understand it, the western/Denver sandwich, of which I made a localized variation, was the precursor to the western/Denver omelette. The story I heard (and prefer to believe) indicates that the sandwich came about as settlers moved west in the 1800's. As the eggs would turn due to lack of refrigeration, the settlers found they could only make them palatable with the addition of ham, onions and peppers. They made such fried egg concoction into a meal by slapping the fried egg mixture between bread to make the western/Denver sandwich. Eventually, through time and the subtraction of bread, this dish became the western/Denver omelette.

                                Of course, I am by no means trying to imply that omelettes or similar fried egg concoctions did not exist long before such time. I was just surprised to see a thread pertaining to the delicious dinner I had tonight and wanted to share my sentiments. If you have the opportunity to have a western/Denver sandwich, do so.

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: MonMauler

                                  "As the eggs would turn due to lack of refrigeration, the settlers found they could only make them palatable with the addition of ham, onions and peppers." It takes an awfully long time for an egg to "turn", and if one does it will be not merely unpalatable but utterly inedible. I've not refrigerated mine for quite a few years now, nor is that practice common in most of the rest of the world.

                                  Omelets were a common thing in our family, and on the menu at most restaurants and diners of the time; this in the Midwest of the 1940s and '50s. These were however the puffy kind, a sort of pan-fried soufflé; the "nice" brown exterior Mom was so proud of was something I hated, and had to peel off before I could eat the rest. Tasted like burnt hair. It was Julia that showed me how to do the quick French kind, ca. 1967 or so, and I've done about one a week ever since.

                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    The 1960s edition of Joy of Cooking describes the common American 'great puffy, soufflelike, rather dry dish', and contrasts it with the French 'three fold delicacy'. The recipes include
                                    French omelet
                                    flufy or souffled omelet
                                    baked omelet
                                    firm omelet
                                    sweet omelet
                                    egg foo yoong
                                    frittata

                                    1. re: paulj

                                      My problem was that I hated the puffy ones so much I dismissed the whole category out of hand. It took Julia's flamboyant TV presentation to get my attention and turn me around. The only cookbook I owned at the time was the red-plaid cover BH&G; the other 500+ were far in the future …

                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                        Heh - the first cookbook I bought myself, because my mom had the old version.

                                        I still have it, by the way, and have several recipes that I still use, because they're still the best in class. (The BHG White Cake Supreme is a classic, and it's a super white layer cake for LOTS of things. I use it for birthday cakes, tiered cakes, and awesome shortcakes -- and everyone raves about it because it's moist, but light-textured)

                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          http://books.google.com/books?id=NEoC...
                                          is a 19th c cookbook, with several pages of egg recipes (p223). Off hand I don't see an omelet recipe, but there are variations on scrambled like 'jumbled eggs' (break the eggs in the pan and then stir). I also found references to 'mumbled eggs', which may or may not be the same. One recipe even tries to keep the yolks whole while stirring the whites.

                                          And it also recommends coating the shells with oil or wax to close pores, and retard spoilage.

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            "Jumbled" eggs! So there really is a name for my favorite kind! I've been calling them "scrambulated" … The only mention of those I've read was in one of Nika Hazelton's cookbooks, in which she abandoned all pretense of objectivity and spoke freely of her prejudices. I put up with most of it, until the sentence in which she said that streaky scrambled eggs "are disgusting." Not "I don't like them" or "I think they're disgusting"! I came very close to hurling the book across the room …

                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                              Huh. "Jumbled eggs".
                                              It seems that stirring up the eggs in a pan IS scrambling them, no? ;-)
                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8211...

                                      2. re: Will Owen

                                        Will, i'm a bit confused. you don't refrig your eggs? and they don't refrig them in europe and england? if that is the case for you, how long is it o.k. to hold them at room temp, in the various seasons, for you?

                                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                                          If we've had enough consecutive days of 100º+ temperatures to heat up the ground floor, I'll stick the eggs in the fridge, but they generally sit out in a usually cool spot in the kitchen. As I go through a dozen in six or seven days, I don't know what the critical limit might be. The problem with long-term keeping is not so much spoilage - that's a sterile environment in there, unless the hen was infected with salmonella - as it is evaporation. In the old days, eggs were prepared for long-term keeping by immersing them for a while in "waterglass", a solution of sodium silicate, and then allowing them to dry. This would render the shells airtight. They were usually kept in clean straw or hay in a box in the spring house or cellar.

                                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                                            Nope, eggs are not refrigerated in Europe or England. They are rinsed, not pressure washed as in the US, so you might have one or two that aren't particulary pretty, but they have not had the natural coating blasted off of them, so they last quite well.

                                            I've successfully kept eggs a couple of weeks on the counter in the winter, when the house is cooler. I'm with Will -- if it's very warm, I'll put them in the fridge.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              I'd never have done this much of the year in our brick house in Nashville, but here in SoCal we have a frame house that was built in 1908. The high ceilings, plus the fact that our nights are almost always very much cooler, keeps the downstairs comfortable until it's been high 90s or hotter for about a week. We don't even have AC on the ground floor.

                                      3. Edward Bernays was a marketing genius who 'invented' the notion of 'eating a healthy breakfast'. I think he was directly responsible for getting average people to eat eggs in the morning in whatever form. Until Bernays came along it was not common for eggs to be eaten for breakfast. "To bump up sales, [of bacon] Bernays put together a physicians survey advocating a "hearty breakfast." Eggs and bacon, according to the survey, fell in that category. Soon after Bernays mailed the results to 5,000 more doctors, bacon sales soared."

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Puffin3

                                          Is there any source for that Bernays attribution, beyond the 2005 NPR story? What year did he do this promotion? I got the impression from Foodtimeline that eggs and bacon were both common in the 19th c. In fact bacon was a staple for many Americans. It was both cheap and kept well.

                                          The early 1900s was when cold cereals were invented, initially as breakfast food at a vegetarian sanitarium.

                                          There probably was a shift in breakfast as people moved from farms to the city. On a farm breakfast (and all the meals) was based on what you grew and raised, and that would have included eggs from the chickens, and milk from the cow. Bacon could have come from the pig you (or your neighbor) butchered last winter, or was bought along with flour and sugar from the general store. In the city most food was bought, including the hot and cold processed cereals (Quaker Oats, Cream of Wheat, Corn Flakes, Grapenuts were some early examples), as well as bakery bread.

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            I'm not sure when Bernays did the 'A big breakfast is good for you. I saw a documentary a few years ago about him and it mentioned the bacon and egg campaign. I think the bacon producers wanted a bigger market share of the breakfast meal and hired Bernays.

                                            1. re: Puffin3

                                              that is so cool! love learning about this. i'll have to research that documentary!

                                              1. re: Puffin3

                                                Bernays's own words on how to sell bacon (

                                                http://books.google.com/books?id=JlcP...
                                                p 76 1928

                                                However I suspect that the claim that he coined 'bacon and eggs' is apocryphal. Via Google Books I am finding that phrase in the 19th c. Some sources are British, but at least on is American.

                                          2. I learned to make an omelet in the early '70s from a wartime cookbook of my mother's. As I recall there were at least 2 examples--French omelet and Omelet. I believe one had a little added milk and one had a little added water, and the techniques might have been different from each other. I'll have to locate these to prove my memory. I still have the cookbook, poor ragged thing.

                                            1. Not having done any research whatsoever, please don't quote or jump on me for this answer, but here's my impression.
                                              Escoffier certainly wrote about omelets. I couldn't begin to tell you how long they've been around, but, certainly remember reading about them being served regularly at the turn of the century, in "Continental Cuisine" Hotels, and in French restaurants. It's worth noting though, that most of those hotel chefs were imported. As in, from France.
                                              I'd bet they came into a more popular useage in America in the early '50's. I know that edition of Joy of Cooking had a method and recipe. And then there's Julia and Simone Beck, who brought it home just as well, with Mastering the Art, which is where many MANY classic French recipes came into popular home cooking accessibility: the coq au vin, the mother sauces. And funny, how some things didn't catch on until so many years later than that: the dacquoise, the quenelles - as recognizable and possible not only for restaurant chefs but for the home cook.
                                              Good question.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: mamachef

                                                mama, your thoughts are all certainly valid. my only differing is that, at least in my awareness, dacquoise(my fav dessert, bar none!) and quenelles (beloved memories from a 1990 Quebec trip)- are still not in the repertoire of the great majority of american home chefs! but fortunate we are that so many other french creations-are!

                                                1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                  There's a recipe for quenelles, as an extension of the one for fish forcemeat, in the booklet that came with my Cuisinart ca. 1982. That was the first I knew of them. I've still not tried any, though when we were at Mrs. O's French relatives' summer place in Burgundy we were visited by a mobile butcher shop. While the cook was buying a calves head and a few Guinea fowl, I was checking out the other stuff on display, which included a big pan of ready-formed quenelles. But Margo put her nose up at them, I assume because if there were going to be quenelles on the menu they'd be HER quenelles!

                                              2. For our family, it occured during the summer of 69. They were the most predictable breakfast on a 9 week trip from Pittsburgh to Tijuana to Victoria and back. Never had them before that.

                                                This was also the trip that we first had Mexican food that wasn't a frozen dinner. Taco Bell.

                                                1. I find it remarkable that your father (if I have the relations right) never had artichokes in New Orleans. They were very popular prior to WWII and most came from Plaquemines Parish in the 1920's and before. I know my mother was eating omelettes in NOLA in the 1930s..she often ordered them at the old line restaurants.

                                                  10 Replies
                                                  1. re: hazelhurst

                                                    hazel, that's so interesting.i didn't realize artichokes were grown in LA.; i always thought they were just a CA crop back then. Maybe because my dad's family was very poor? he told us about going to school w/ his lunch of a baguette hollowed out and 'filled' w/ caro syrup. So nutritional.....

                                                    The omelets don't surprise me at all, w/ the Fr heritage there.

                                                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                      I was always told that Plaquemines Parishi was the first place in the New World to grow them. The farms died out a little before WW II but I used to get some from a guy across from Pointe a la Hache years ago. The vegetable truck by the Seminary on Carrolton (a/k/a "The Priest Factory") claimed that his were from down there and that was int he 1970's/80's.

                                                      1. re: hazelhurst

                                                        my dad was born in NOLA in1922. wouldn't it be fascinating to find a local artichoke tradition in the local food there from the early 20th c.? sounds like a great research article for the food section of the NO paper. artichokes etouffee?! here's what i found after a bit of googling. can't find anything that claims 'the very FIRST artichokes grown in america..." but maybe further research.... The Dutch introduced artichokes to England, where they grew in Henry VIII's garden at Newhall in 1530. They were brought to the United States in the 19th century, to Louisiana by French immigrants and to California by Spanish immigrants. The name has originated from the Arabic al-kharshof, through a northern Italian dialect word, articiocco.[8] Revised March 2011. ------------------------------------------------ Native to the Mediterranean region, artichokes were brought to the United States in the 1800s and first grown in Louisiana by French immigrants and in California by the Spanish. Today artichokes are grown almost exclusively in California, which accounts for more than 99 percent of national production.

                                                        hey hazel! i have just found a usda 1920 report about artichokes in the Pla..... county!

                                                        http://books.google.com/books?id=XEHO...

                                                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                          Artichoke etouffee would be a helluva stretch since the Cajun world never really got into New Orleans until after WW II and etouffee itself did not come out of the swamps until about 1940. But it is worth a try. Kinda fusion cooking in a way.

                                                          There is a crawfish Yvonne that has artichokes in it. Was invented in the 1970's.

                                                          1. re: hazelhurst

                                                            hazel, plse see my transferring of this discussion onto Gen'l CH Topics!

                                                          2. re: opinionatedchef

                                                            That, as the kids used to say, is "way cool." I've always wanted to grow my own artichokes and now I know some of the blight I must confront. Thanks!

                                                          3. re: hazelhurst

                                                            HH, I'd be intrigued as to how the LA parish was the first place in the New World to grow artichokes. From whence did they come? My understanding is that the Delmonico Bros. brought over artichoke, eggplant and fennel from Switzerland for their famous NY restaurant in the 1840's and were first growing all three out on Long Island, NY. If you have better documentation on this, I'm all ears.
                                                            CP

                                                            1. re: Chefpaulo

                                                              This history of Delmonicos mentions both artichokes and the LI farm
                                                              http://www.steakperfection.com/delmon...

                                                              1. re: Chefpaulo

                                                                paulo, because the artichoke topic is not omelet related, it now has its own thread here:

                                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/827906

                                                                The links at the beginning of this discussion all talk about artichokes being brought over to the u.s. in the 18th c., to LA by French colonists and CA.by spanish colonists.

                                                                1. re: Chefpaulo

                                                                  It is my understanding that artichokes were established early-on by the colonists, probably as home garden items. As to when Plaquemine Parish became the farm for teh City, I don't know. I cannot imagine that there would have been a need for commercial farming until the 1800's.

                                                                  Gotta be careful about restaurant history claims: the mendacity in that business is alwasy entertaining to me.

                                                          4. When I was cleaning out my parent's house after they died I came across a "Rudolph Stanish Omelet Pan". Depends on what you call "fairly common", but there are a lot of these pans around.

                                                            http://www.newportmansions.org/learn/...

                                                            http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08043/...

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: svnirvana

                                                              sv, i read through those links; so fascinating; thank you! i can't imagine aluminum being a good pan for omelets ; might you try it out?

                                                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                I'll take a look at it when I can and give it a try (not home now) but I recall that it is a big heavy pan, maybe 1/4 inch thick or more. I don't think that there would be any hot spots... would most likely heat pretty evenly.

                                                                1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                  Aluminum is TERRIFIC for omelettes, especially if you're doing them "Julia-style," i.e. lifting the handle a bit to jerk the pan. It holds heat really well so the omelettes cook fast in spite of being partially off the heat source.

                                                                  1. re: MacGuffin

                                                                    Yup - my dad used heavy aluminum for years. Loved it. He then moved on to non-stick, but I have a cast aluminum double griddle that I ADORE and is excellent for pancakes and meats.

                                                                    Good for eggs too but I don't use it for that, that often as I don't need to cook that many eggs!

                                                              2. Can you define "fairly common"?

                                                                I'm not so sure that omelets are commonly cooked in American homes.

                                                                Commonly known, maybe. But commonly cooked? Not so much, me thinks.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                  Growing up in a small town in west Texas, I was making three-fold cheese omelets by the time I was seven (this would be mid-late '70s), although I'm sure they weren't very good. My Massachusetts-bred wife counts the aforementioned jelly omelets as one of her key household comfort foods as a kid. Neither of us grew up in houses of particularly adventurous eaters, and our socioeconomic status was lower-middle to middle class at best.

                                                                  So anecdotally, at least, it seems to me that omelets are indeed "fairly common."

                                                                2. I was a teen before I ever was aware of omelets - same with most of my contemporaries at the time.
                                                                  It wasn't until I experienced late night meals after an evening clubbing that I discovered Denver omelets at Sambo's (the now defunct non-pc icon of the 24 hr. genre).

                                                                  Early '80's TGIFridays opened in the area where I was living and their omelets with a wide array of fillings were very popular. That seemed to spur the beginnings of really getting them onto the home menu in my little world.

                                                                  In the mid-70's I was dating someone who came to my house with a seasoned cast iron pan and made mushroom (fresh were still a novelty) omelets for me and my mother. She stills talks about how wonderful they were and what a great first exposure it was. We ate and proceeded to attempt to be helpful and almost washed the pan - resulting in another first - awareness of seasoning and caring for cast iron.

                                                                  This is the only one of my ex's (perhaps a 2-3 month relationship) that she wistfully inquires about!

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: meatn3

                                                                    great story. wish you could turn it into a one pager so you could submit it to the NYTimes Sun. magazine endpage, Our Lives.

                                                                  2. OK, gang, sorry about the artichoke digression.
                                                                    Why I didn't think of this earlier, I'll never know. My 1907 "Encyclopedia of Practical Gastronomy" by Ali-Bab has a whole section on omelets indicating they were of culinary art status even back then.
                                                                    CP

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Chefpaulo

                                                                      chefp, but this is a French book! And also, i'm not asking when omelets were first in american cookbooks. I'm asking when omelets became a common American household dish . Prob. need to talk to some American 90 yr olds.....

                                                                    2. My 1943 "Joy of Cooking" has plenty of omelet recipes.

                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                                        well i would certainly think JOC an exellent indicator of the 'typical american kitchen', so thx very much!.

                                                                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                          I have my grandmother's copy of The Settlement Cookbook (Tenth Edition, subtitled "The Way to a Man's Heart") which she signed in 1914. It contains eleven different recipes for omelets including Chinese, French, and Spanish.

                                                                          1. re: JoanN

                                                                            Out of curiousity, what does it list for ingredients for each of those? I'm genuinely interested to hear what they would have included!

                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                              Chinese: 4 eggs, well beaten; 1/2 minced onion; 4 sticks celery, diced; 4 oz. pork, chopped fine; 1/2 tablespoon syou [yes, that's how it's spelled] sauce; 1/2 teaspoon salt.

                                                                              French: 3 eggs; 1/2 teaspoon salt; spk. [I assume "speck"?] pepper; 3 tablespoons hot water

                                                                              Spanish: French omelet [you make the French omelet with four eggs, then fold the sauce into the omelet and pour the rest of the sauce over and around it]. The ingredients in the sauce are: 2 tablespoon butter; 1 tablespoon onion, finely chopped; 6 olives, chopped; 1/2 green pepper chopped fine; 1 3/4 cups tomatoes; 1 tablespoon sliced mushrooms; 1 tablespoon capers; 1/4 teaspoon salt; few grains cayenne.

                                                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                                                I'm laughing that the French one is just a plain omelet!

                                                                                the Chinese one is a little "La Choy", but the Spanish one is at least definitely on the right page.

                                                                                It's fascinating to see what we collectively thought other cultures ate.

                                                                                I had the tremendous good luck of being allowed to page through a cookbook published in 1741....some of it was laughable by today's standards, but some of it was still pretty applicable.

                                                                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                    I only had a few minutes to look at it, but just the ideas of what foods went with which foods, and what they would do to your body (this was old enough to talk about "humours") -- lots of what would be called superstition or old wives' tales, given what we know now about food and health and cooking.

                                                                        2. re: pikawicca

                                                                          In the 1940 movie The Philadelphia Story, Tracey Lord receives an omelette dish as a wedding present.

                                                                        3. My mother routinely made frittatas in the 50s. Before teflon, it was always a challenge to get the omelet to release and flip properly. I remember when she bought one of those hinged pans where all you were supposed to do was flip the pan. I don't think it worked very well.

                                                                          1. How common is "fairly common"? My father, an unpretentious home cook, did breakfast and sometimes made an omelet, ham or cheese or both. That's in the 1940s. Not a classic French omelet, more what Pépin calls a "rustic" omelet (without mocking it), but the eggs were wrapped around the filling and that meets the definition.

                                                                            That's in America, of course. I expect omelets have been common in French homes for a very long time.

                                                                            15 Replies
                                                                            1. re: John Francis

                                                                              The omelette " Mere Poulard" was famous in gastronomic circles in the 1930's and I am tempted to say I've seen references to it in the 1920's. Certainly it was known when Hemingway liberated Mt St. michel in 1944: his HQ was at the Hotel.

                                                                              1. re: hazelhurst

                                                                                I don't think the Poulard omelette has ever become common in American cooking although I remember during the '60s being able to buy a powdered cheese omelette to which one added liquid and then baked in a skillet. It puffed up like a Poulard omelette and in fact, it was not only my introduction to omelettes (I'd never heard or seen the word prior) but was the first omelette I ever made. I was all of eight or nine and asked my mom to buy it so I could make it. Afterwards I was intrigued enough to start combing her cookbooks. I seem to recall that they usually specified whipping the whites stiff and then folding with the beaten yolks. I don't know of anyone who made them like that, though--too fussy.

                                                                                1. re: MacGuffin

                                                                                  Admittedly, my experience is not exactly the average for men of my age but in my family's world, food was of great importance and I grew up reading cookbooks and travel books. Everyone in my parents circle could be expected to know the signature dishes at various places, even ones they'd never been to (but wanted to go). Off the top of my head, I'd say that in 1965, the list would include Antoine's Oysters Rockefeller, Duck at Tour d'Argent (which is where Antoine's got the idea to number each serving of Rockefeller), Sole de la Tante Marie at Lucas-Carton, and the omelette at Mere Poulard. I have the remains of a cookbook printed in Baton Rouge LA in about 1970 in which the author dictates her version of the Mere Poulard omelette. And, indeed, I ate her version years before I ever tried the Real Thing at the Mont. The guy standing in the corner of the dining room beating the tattoo in teh bowl with his whisk (at Mere Poulard) was replaced by a KitchenAid mixer.

                                                                                  Certainly the Mere Poulard was not a household name in Yazoo City, MS, or in Athall, Mass., or even in Cos Cob, Conn., but you can bet there were a few people around in those places that had heard of it.

                                                                                2. re: hazelhurst

                                                                                  I think you'll find that Hemingway singlehandedly liberated the bar of the Ritz hotel in Paris: http://www.vanityfair.com/society/201... (It's a fun article to read - lots of tidbits about famous guests at the hotel over the years

                                                                                  )

                                                                                  They still make omelets/omelettes by whipping the egg whites when you visit Mont St Michel, though -- and charge you about three times the price for watching them do it. (and it's still a crap omelet)

                                                                                  I made one once for my sister years ago -- it came out beautifully -- just a pale golden crust on the outside, and tall and fluffy....she was crushed that it tasted like egg-flavored air (her words)....that was the first and last time for that experiment.

                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                    Sorry to hear it has gone to hell..it used to be quite good (but pricey). The copycat recipe I have calls for using the KitchenAid for 8 minutes, whole eggs. Butter in the pan, pour the foamy stuff in and stir with a fork, never touching the bottom. After bubble appear (over medium heat) remove it from the stove and let sit for one minute. Return to fire and if you add mushrooms etc do it then. Again, bubbles show up, run the knife around the edge and slide it half-out of the pan onto the plate and flip the other half ont top. Beuatiful crust and some uncooked froth at the edges. Good stuff.

                                                                                    1. re: hazelhurst

                                                                                      There is nothing quality nor cheap about any of the Poulard establishments any more. Sad, but true. Mass-produced and priced to squeeze the last centime of profit from the truckloads of tourists.

                                                                                    2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                      Did you actually watch them separate the eggs? Because I watched a YouTube video and it seemed to me that whites would deflate if beaten as hard as those eggs were (I saw no evidence of folding). My understanding is that Poulard swore the eggs weren't separated; my hunch is that whole eggs probably get quite thick and foamy in a copper bowl when beaten extensively. If I ever get the copper bowl of my dreams, I'll test my theory. :) And FWIW, I've also heard that the omelettes are a lot more show than anything else. I guess they charge royally for the show.

                                                                                      1. re: MacGuffin

                                                                                        The best show around there, for my money, is paying progressively to see St Aubert's skull at Avranche...good ole mulcting.

                                                                                        1. re: MacGuffin

                                                                                          They come out with something in a bowl...I have a copper bowl, and I've never been able to make whole eggs stand up that tall, even with an electric mixer....so something's different.

                                                                                          And yeah -- it's just "egg-flavored air" as my sister put it, and from the reviews I've read, they're now getting about 25 euros (that's about US$30!) for an omelet.

                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                            But we musn't forget that shaking people down is what the Mont has been all about for centuries. That is part of the fun.

                                                                                            1. re: hazelhurst

                                                                                              That's a point; it does look like fun. However, I really like to eat and for $30 I'd hope for more from eggs and butter than theatre. I wonder where you can buy one of those skillets?

                                                                                              1. re: MacGuffin

                                                                                                I am certain that Mere Poularde will be happy to sell you one. Joints on the Rock have sold everything--including novels in English that were banned--forever. If there's a sou to be made (or whatever the rotten Euro equivalent is).....

                                                                                                1. re: hazelhurst

                                                                                                  Yep...that's why we typically try not to eat on the Mont if we can help it. We got caught with strange timing the last time, and just bought takeout sandwiches...they were 6 or 7 euros -- so more than Paris, but at least they weren't as big a ripoff as the sitdown meals.

                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                    I don;t think I could have resisted the oysters in St. Malo. They once capped off a great eating day wherein I had a Coquille St. Jacques en route from Paris YEARS ago. I'm sorry I have forgotten the town and the restaurant.

                                                                                                    You should read , if you haven't already,AJ Liebling's description of the Mont in "Normandy Revisited." It's a classic.

                                                                                                    1. re: hazelhurst

                                                                                                      Oh, it's only ON the Mont that's a total ripoff....as soon as you set foot back on the mainland, you're back to "normal". We've bought some pretty darned nice foie gras from a lady who can see the abbey from her back yard, as well as some killer cidres and pommeau from producers not too far from there.

                                                                                                      Last year, we poked around Dinan in a fit of curiousity, and wandered into a place down by the port there that had fresh (as in delivered a couple of hours before) moules de Baie de Mont St Michel for a ridiculously low price. We ate every last one of those sweet little moules.

                                                                                                      Great value (and great quality) can be had in the area - just not on the Mont.

                                                                                                      Just as an aside for those who don't know -- the Mont just started a new shuttle service this spring - instead of driving over the causeway, you now park on the mainland and catch a shuttle bus to the Mont. They've already started work on removing the causeway and building a different type of bridge -- the causeway has seriously impacted the tidal flow of the bay and there's been significant silting in recent years.

                                                                                                      Hopefully, when the project is completed, the tidal flows will return to their old patterns and the bay will recover.

                                                                                  2. Omelets were a breakfast staple in our home more than 50 years ago, and my grandparents served them to my parents about 90 years ago.
                                                                                    If made in a frying pan they were called omelets and generally had cheese and/veg. If made on the griddle with meat, they were called eggs pancake style.

                                                                                    1. In South Mississippi, I recall them in the early '50s, but they might predate that?

                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                      1. Well, my husband is thrilled with this thread.

                                                                                        You see, in his childhood home, "Eggs were scrambled or fried". He did not have an omelet until he came to California as an adult. He loved them but wondered why he'd never had one before.

                                                                                        I grew up with omelets but my dad was a foodie before they even had the word : )

                                                                                        Anyhoo, I'd say in much of non-big city America they did not hit until the 70's/80's.