Last month, I watched a 12 foot omelette being made in Abbeville, Louisiana.
In fact, I drove 20 hours round trip to see it.
Months earlier, a friend asked me to go to the Giant Omelette Celebration with her. Celebrate a giant omelette? Are you kidding?
But since I love all things Cajun/zydeco, and Abbeville, LA is in the heart of Cajun/zydeco music and dancing country, celebrating an omelette was as good an excuse as any to get me there.
We arrived at the celebration on Sunday at 10am, in time for the first dance. My friends wanted to stay to see the giant omelette prepared at 1:30pm. I did not. Southwest Louisiana is a smorgasbord of festivals and music and dancing—I wanted to head off to find something more exciting than an omelette. Who cares anyway?
I soon found out. And I learned something very important along the way.
En route to the dance, we passed by the giant skillet and fire. Spectators had already set up their chairs 3 hours before the event. (Seriously?)
Louisianians in these parts are especially friendly, so as we took pictures, the locals excitedly told us about what turns out to be a 31 year tradition. Soon, they called over the Maître du Feu (the Master of Fire) to “initiate us.” He was quite the storyteller.
It all started with Napoleon Bonaparte in the 1800s. He was in Bessières, France when he ordered an omelette for breakfast at the inn where he had taken refuge. So besotted was he with the omelette that he insisted one be made for his entire army. A giant omelette was made, and for some reason, the town folk decided to make a giant omelette every year thereafter.
In 1984, three Abbevillians attended this Omelette Festival in Bessieres. They were later knighted the first of Abbeville's “Chevaliers,” and brought the tradition home, nudging this little city closer to its French Heritage.
The Maître du Feu ended his story by explaining he would soon turn over his honored position to his son, who had been in training. Then he posed for pictures.
I became more and more intrigued. By the time we bid him adieu, not only did I want to see the omelette prepared, I had to! This was not just an omelette, it was a celebration of life, of friendship, of connection. Of gratitude, sharing and community.
At 1:30, we gathered for the Procession of Chefs, which included chevaliers from France and Australia, as well as Abbeville. Then there was an invocation and singing of the Star Spangled Banner. A Cajun band started up as the cracking of 5023 eggs began. The pan was prepared, the bread sliced.
Somewhere along the way, my geeky dietitian self came out and I began adding up the calories being cooked in front of us. (609,115). Then I had to figure out how many pounds one might gain if one where to consume the whole thing in one day (if calories in/calories out formulas were accurate, which they are not). (174 pounds.) Of course you would need to eat the entire omelette in addition to your daily energy needs. Still, calorie counts can be off by 20%, so we could go 121,823 calories in either direction. (Yet another reason intuitive, mindful eating is better than counting calories). But I digress.
We stood there and watched with rapt attention for 2 hours (!). The crowd eagerly awaited the sharing of the omelette and bread, which were given away freely to all in attendance.
Aside from that moment of nutrition lunacy, I was caught up in the celebration of this omelette, knowing that it was actually about so much more.
The celebration was about experiencing the area's joie de vivre, about sharing its rich culture, about meeting and mingling with its people, and about making memories and friendships which last a lifetime.
I was struck by the change in my attitude, at first dismissive of the silly giant omelette, then caught up in awe of it all. Taking in the sharing, the friendship and the joy.
I was reminded as I stood there, that we can make a similar decision each time we eat. We can eat dismissively, without regard to the eating experience, or get caught up in the gifts that come our way when we eat or share a meal.
The Giant Omelette Celebration had a powerful impact on me, encouraging me to slow down and focus on the celebration of eating and life. I’ve decided to consciously emphasize this practice as we approach the holidays. I’m fairly certain it won’t be easy.