A few months back, my great friend Chris Coulson was staying with me at my place.
Chris has come out to stay with me a ton of times, and he’s very well acquainted with the number one rule in House Roman: we don’t have guests, only family.
This is not only a mantra that makes it clear that by being invited into our home, you’re fully invited into our life, it’s also a matter of practicality: guests need to be tended to; family takes care of itself.
So, when people come to stay with me, my house is their house. Take what you want from the fridge, don’t ask if it’s okay to have a glass of the expensive bourbon, and feel free to make any mess you’re willing to clean up.
For those who don’t know him, Chris is a big boy, coming in at 6’3” and hovering around 220 pounds. As such, he requires a lot of protein. His macros being what they are, he was seemingly consuming about 527 eggs per day while he was staying with me. And, cooking them his damn self.
I watched in horror as he poured freshly beaten eggs into a lukewarm pan, and sort of just poked at them with a wooden spatula for a while. This went on for about five minutes, during which the eggs eventually cooked. Then, he dumped his sludgy abomination onto a plate, pausing only to scrape the bottom of the pan, which a large portion had firmly taken hold.
Truly, it was awful to behold.
I’m not going to sit here like some culinary snob and tell you that eggs need to be treated with the same care as cooking the perfect steak—but, to be honest, it’s just something that’s so easy to do that messing it up seems criminal.
And it’s something you can learn in as little as five.
I know this because it’s something I learned many years ago—from a world champion omelette maker, no less.
Naturally, I taught Chris the Way of the Superior Egg. But in doing so, I also shared the story of how I learned it.
In the spring of 2007, I was 25, in the midst of my first serious post-college romance, and loving every minute of it. While it wasn’t my first long-term relationship, it was the first time things felt real; it was more impactful, had more gravity, there was potential.
For both of us, the texture and experience of the relationship were very different than anything we’d experienced. And as the one-year mark approached, we decided to celebrate by going on vacation together.
This stands out in my memory for a few reasons: not only was it the first trip my lady and I would take together; it was also the first vacation I ever went on with a romantic partner.
It felt very adult.
Not quite adult enough to know how to cook the perfect omelette—but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Neither of us was the type of person to half-ass things, we wanted to go all out. After much research, we decided on a trip to Tulum, Mexico, on the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. Known for being generally quiet and for its proximity to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, it was also home to a number of incredible resorts.
One of these, in particular, drew our collective eye: a brand new, all-inclusive resort that was opening the week we’d planned on going. The website used words like “exclusive,” “ultra-luxury,” and “high end.”
These terms are a nice way of saying, “insanely fucking expensive.” And it was. Even for the Grand Opening special, rooms were $600. Per night…per person. Needless to say, this would have been far outside our price range.
However, here’s something cool about the woman I was dating: she was a registered travel agent. Not as her actual job—a few years prior, she’d just decided to get her license because it allowed for incredibly discounted travel.
And that discount is something that really can’t be overstated: thanks to her status as an agent, our rate was $89 per person per night. Bam. With that, the trip was booked. Four weeks later, we found ourselves in Mexico.
(Note: after that trip, I immediately became a registered travel agent, and have no paid full price for travel since.)
Anyway, as you might expect, the place was even more impressive in person than it had looked online. We were the youngest couple there by at least a decade, and everyone assumed we were on our honeymoon. (I stopped correcting people after the second day.)
Like many high-end resorts, especially all-inclusive properties, this place had a number of activities to choose from, from fitness classes to sailing to jet skiing—even swimming with whale sharks.
But what caught my eye was that they offered professional cooking classes. There were four classes per day, each at different times for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Each class was taught by a different chef, all of whom had won some award or was known for some famous restaurant.
Jet skiing is cool and all, but when else was I going to have a chance to learn to cook a meal from a world-renowned chef? It was too good to pass up.
Now, despite the muscular carapace in which I masquerade, deep down, I’m still a fat kid with a hell of a sweet tooth. So, naturally, I tried to sign up for the dessert course.
Turned out, though, that rather than being able to select exactly what you wanted, your names were entered into a pool, and from there you’d be assigned a specific class.
Basically, we were about to get sorted into the culinary equivalent of a Hogwarts house. (As far I see it: dessert is Gryffindor.) Despite my hopes for dessert, we got sorted into the breakfast class (Ravenclaw, by my estimation.)
While I was disappointed at the time, this turned out to be one of the best accidents of my life.
Because it was in that breakfast class, at 7:45am on a Wednesday morning in Tulum that I learned the real secret to making the perfect omelette.
The class was taught by a lovely older gentleman who laid claim to the title of world champion omelette maker—which is apparently a real thing that an adult human can not only be, but also brag about.
Joking aside, he turned out to be as good a showman as he was a teacher. The class was thorough, enlightening, and very funny. And obviously memorable, as I still recall it clearly more than a decade later.
I will share with you what he shared with me, and what I shared with Chris.
“The key,” spake the Wizard of Omelettes, said, “is that the pan needs to be HOT. So hot it scares you.“
From there, it’s all about speed and efficiency.
Boom. Just like that, you’ve got the perfect omelette.
All told, it should be about two minutes from the time the eggs hit the pan until the omelette hits your plate. (It’s 90 seconds for me, as I like my eggs a little runny.)
First and foremost, you need to prep your ingredients ahead of time, because you’ll be moving quickly, and want to have them close at hand.
As for your egg mixture, my personal favorite recipe: 4 eggs, 2 tablespoons of water, and 1 tablespoon of whole milk or half and half.
This will make the eggs fluffy and give bring out the flavor. If you really wanna get adventurous, replace the milk with a teaspoon of sour cream for some tang.
If you’re going to be adding anything to your omelette, like ham, cheese, scallions, etc. Just put everything in separate bowls and lay them out. Ideally, you should use ramekins, because then you get to use the word ramekin. Which makes you feel like a proper chef.
Next, the pan. Yes, you absolutely need to use a non-stick pan. While I love the look, feel, and taste of a great cast-iron, non-stick is better suited for eggs. Trust me, I learned it from the Dumbledore of eggs.
Your non-stick pan really does need to be incredibly hot; the eggs should start cooking as soon as they hit the pan. This is why it’s important to have even distribution, rather than dumping it all in one spot and letting it “pile.”
Further, you must use the right sized pan: the smaller the surface area of the pan, the greater the depth of the mixture when it collects in the pan. This makes for a thicker omelette, which you do not want.
Thick omelettes need to be flipped for even cooking; a thin omelette can cook all the way through from one side, especially if you move quickly. Flipping an omelette looks cool, but it’s a difficult skill to master, and usually a messy one to acquire.
If you’re using four eggs or more, a 10-inch pan works great. Anything less and you can get away with an 8-inch.
Now, teaching Chris how to make the perfect omelette was fun. And so is sharing it with you.
But there are some deeper things going on here that I think are worth discussing.
Honestly, I was going to avoid talking about nutrition altogether, but I know I’m going to get emails about this.
So: no, eggs are not bad for you.
Saturated fat is not bad for you.
Dietary cholesterol is not bad for you.
I’m not going to spend much time on this, but, three quick points about this:
Unrelated to health but of paramount importance is the unassailable fact that eggs are delicious.
After I showed Coulson how to make the eggs the “correct” way, the story—which I honestly hadn’t thought of, let alone told, in several years—stuck with me.
The experience of that trip was pretty profound.
While it’s easy to make a joke like, “and that was the most important thing I learned from that relationship…,” that would be both off color and untrue.
Rather, I think dredging this story up from the depths of my brain has given me a reason to appreciate all of the things I learned in that relationship—things that made me a better person or prepared me in some way to be better in other relationships and in marriage.
Now, I’m a video game guy, so this may be a bit of a leap for you, but it’s an interesting frame, I think: to look at relationships as experiences that help you level up and get better at being in relationships, eventually preparing you for the ones that will (hopefully) last a lifetime.
I mean, chances are none of the women I dated subsequent to that trip stuck around because I made them the perfect omelette, but it probably didn’t hurt.
At the very least, it’s certainly better than looking back bitterly at your history and regretting a bunch of shit you can’t change.
One might question why it’s worth bothering to learn how to make the perfect omelette.
It might sound stupid, but in a very real way, every omelette you make says something about you.
And while I’m spouting maxims, I believe that how you do one thing is how you do everything. I put effort into everything do, which includes both cooking and telling stories about cooking.
I’m of the mind that anything worth doing is worth doing well—so if you’re going to put eggs in a pan, you may as well crush it.