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Food & Cooking

Which country discovered the omelette?

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05/29/2010

"Eggs have been known to, and enjoyed by, humans for many centuries. Jungle fowl were domesticated in India by 3200 B.C.E. Record from China and Egypt show that fowl were domesticated and laying eggs for human consumption around 1400 B.C.E., and there is archaeological evidence for egg consumption dating back to the Neolithic age. The Romans found egg-laying hens in England, Gaul, and among the Germans. The first domesticated fowl reached North America with the second voyage of Columbus in 1493."

---Encyclopedia of Food and Culture, Solomon H. Katz, editor, William Woys Weaver, associate editor [Charles Scribner's Sons:New York] 2003, Volume 1 (p. 558)

According Alan Davidson's Oxford Companion to Food [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 550, 553), the word omelette" is of French origin and came into use during the mid-16th century. Somewhat similar egg dishes were known to and ancient medieval cooks. Mr. Davidson traces the origins of the omelette to ancient Persia. We know the Ancient Romans often combined eggs and dairy products into patinae, custards and a variety of other sweet and savory dishes. C. Anne Wilson comments: "The precursor to the omlette in Britain was known as a herbolace and in the late fourteenth century was a mixture of eggs and shredded herbs, baked in a buttered dish. A contemporary French recipe under the same name is much more detailed, and gives instructions for heating oil, butter or fat thoroughly in a frying pan before pouring in eight well-beaten eggs (of medieval size) mixed with brayed herbs and ginger. The French version was finished off with grated cheese on top, and appears to have been quite close to the modern concept of an omelette."

---Food and Drink in Britain From the Stone Age to the 19th Century [Academy Chicago Press:Chicago] 1991 ( p. 142).

"Omelette...a sweet of savoury dish made from beaten whole eggs, cooked in a frying pan, and served plain or with various additions....Omelettes were known during the Middle Ages. In the 17th century one of the most famous omelettes was omelette du cure, containing soft carp roes and tuna fish, which Brillat-Savarin [a food writer] much admired."

---Larousse Gastronomique, Completely revised and updated edition [Clarkson Potter:New York] 2001 (p. 808)