#ThatTranslatorCanCook week 47: classic French omelette
This week’s recipe seems so simple yet is far from it: the classic French omelette. In fact, Bon Appétit describes it as ‘a milestone in any chef's career’.
It’s important to note that, as Jacques Pépin explains in this video, there’s a significant difference between the classic French omelette that you might eat out, and a ‘country style’ variety, which he likens to an American omelette – or I guess I should say ‘omelet’. I was aiming for the classic French option.
As Quealy Watson defines, ‘the perfect omelet according to the French, softly scrambled, no color, perfectly barely set eggs, oozing with a fine cheese’ . Bill Buford follows up that it must be soft in the middle, pillowy to the touch. It should have bounce.
Right, no pressure then…
My source recipe is from the classic French cookbook, Françoise Bernard’s Les recettes faciles. Though there weren’t any translation challenges as such, I did come across another curious term.
Appealing to the reader: no ‘slimy’ omelette please
My recipe explains that when you fold your omelette, you want it to be ‘encore baveuse au centre’.
The adjective baveux / baveuse comes from the verb baver whose primary sense is often translated with ‘dribble’ ‘drool’ ‘slobber’, or ‘leave a trail’ (i.e. when it comes to snails). The adjective can therefore be translated as ‘slimy’.
Of course, describing your omelette as ‘slimy’ in English is far from appealing. And since this is a recipe, appealing to the reader is important. A more appealing translation for a cooking context could be ‘wet’ (depending on the dish and texture required), or ‘runny’, which works well here since it’s often used for eggs.
Unlike ‘slimy’, ‘runny’ is generally seen as a positive thing – think of soft boiled eggs with runny yolks for instance. That said, it does depend on what you’re making. If you’re baking a cheesecake or a panna cotta, the last thing you want is for it to be runny.
So, when it comes to recipes, not only do the terms you choose need to be appealing and appetising, but they also need to be appropriate for the recipe in question.
Well, I did my best, and it was delicious. It was soft and pillowy, with no colour. The only thing that didn’t quite go to plan was folding and turning it out of the pan. Mine tore a little. But let me tell you, it didn’t taste any the worse for it.
Besides, I’m going to blame the equipment rather than my technique. My source recipe explains that the pan you use should be used almost exclusively for omelettes… Sorry, that’s really not my jam – things in my kitchen have to serve several purposes!
Recipe ideas and substitutions
This Serious Eats recipe looks like a good one.
With this sort of thing though, a video really does help, so I’d suggest Jacques Pépin’s one again.
One advantage of the omelette is that you really don’t need many ingredients – just eggs and oil or butter to make a delicious dish. But you can change it up a bit with herbs, cheese or something if you like.
Another crazy week ahead, let’s see what I’m able to whip up!