In her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1963), Julia Child offers a sensual introduction to her chapter on the omelette, “A good French omelette is a smooth, gently swelling, golden oval that is tender and creamy inside.” followed by her more familiar, prosaic tone, “And it takes less than half a minute to make.”

Before McDonalds took over as the largest restaurant service in France, city restaurants and rural cafés regarded the omelette as the Gallic epitome of fast food. Unfortunately, these days you are more likely to stumble on El Dorado whilst travelling the back roads of France than discover a bistro serving a simple omelette. The finest ones are to be found in home kitchens, especially those with access to fresh, free-range eggs.

Way back in 1984 when Elizabeth David published her seminal essay, An Omelette and a Glass of Wine, things were very different. She wrote of a restaurant called the Hôtel de la Tête d’Or on Mont-St-Michel just off the coast of Normandy. The proprietress of the hotel was one Madame Poulard, whose dreamy omelettes brought gourmands flocking to her restaurant. The secret of the dish created much speculation, did she add water or cream, was it the shape of the pan she used, were the eggs issued from a particular breed of hen, one stab in the dark even suggested that foie gras was added. Someone eventually saw fit to write and ask her for the recipe. After her retirement in 1922, her reply was published in the magazine Le Table.

Monsieur Viel,

Here is the recipe for the omelette: I break some good eggs in a bowl, I beat them well, I put a good piece of butter in the pan, I throw the eggs into it, and I shake it constantly. I am happy, monsieur, if this recipe pleases you. Annette Poulard

Good to have that cleared up.

Wine thoughts

Simple fruity wines don’t always provide the best food matches, but they are a reliable default choice when eggs are in the mix. Any one of the Crus Beaujolais reds can be included here. If pushed, I would opt for a simple Fleurie, suitably served in a small verre Parisienne, or Paris café goblet. More by way of deference to bistro traditions than taste of course.