Why the variation in spelling?
It’s a common question when dining out or reading cookbooks: why is the delightful egg dish sometimes spelled “omelet” and other times “omelette”? The answer, as with many culinary terms, has its roots in history and geography.
The French Origin:
“Omelette” is the traditional French word for the savory egg dish. It’s not surprising given that many of the world’s classic culinary terms are derived from the French. Although the dish itself, as well as the term, are often attributed to France, the history of the omelet goes back even further. It’s believed to date back to the early 1500s, with origins in Spain, among the Aztecs, and even in the Persian Empire.
Different regions, different omelets:
It’s not just the spelling that varies. The manner of cooking and presenting the omelet differs depending on the region. Classical French omelets are thinner, with the egg being the main attraction. In contrast, American omelets are heftier, filled with various toppings, resulting in a thicker dish.
The term “omelette” made its debut in the French classic “Cuisine Bourgeois” penned by François Menon. Digging deeper into the word’s history reveals an even older term, alemele, from the 1400s. This term, meaning “blade of a knife or sword”, mirrors the shape of the finished dish. While the omelet has ancient roots, Menon’s book played a significant role in popularizing it in the context of French culinary arts. As the dish ventured westward, the “te” was dropped by colonialists, leading to the Americanized “omelet”.
Omelets in History:
The presence of the omelet dates back to Roman times, evident in recipes found in the ancient Roman cookbook, the “Apicius”. But it was during Napoleon Bonaparte’s journey through southern France that omelets gained significant recognition. After being served an omelet that he greatly admired, Napoleon supposedly ordered a massive one to be made for his army. While this story could be mere legend, it remains an integral part of the local lore, celebrated annually at Easter by the residents of Bessieres, France.
In summary, the spelling variation between “omelet” and “omelette” showcases the rich history and diverse influences that have shaped this popular dish over centuries. The next time you enjoy one, you’re not just indulging in a tasty meal; you’re partaking in a dish with a storied past.