There is no question that I enjoy surrounding myself with treasures and spoils of the sights I have seen, and the places I have conquered.
Be it warm mukluks from northern Minnesota, coral from the shores of O’ahu, a placemat displaying the mountains of the Berner Oberland, or a ticket for a train ride in Sardinia, memories of my travels clutter up both my life and mind.
Despite my apparent plethora of material goods – and I think many people would agree with me here – it is my memories of food that resonate most strongly with the places I have visited.
Cheese studded with fruit and nuts from the Coop in Kandersteg, Switzerland. A cream puff larger than my face just outside of Berlin. Piles of small fried shrimp near Padre Island in Texas. Spam in Hawaii. Spam in Minnesota. Dim sum in San Francisco, Victoria B.C., and St. Paul. Excellent pot pie in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Warm Raclette enjoyed after a day spent falling down a mountain in the French Alps, the waiters begging my two table mates and I to somehow – miraculously – eat the whole wheel of cheese.
I could go on for a very long time with this list, and if you have travel memories, I bet you could too. After all, you are what you eat, right?
There is one food memory missing from the list that merits greater discussion, and by greater discussion, I mean five years of pondering exactly what it was that I ate before attempting to recreate it here. A stunning, fully red omelette that I enjoyed in Carcassonne, a beautiful town steeped in history in le Midi of France.
But first, Montpellier.
I studied abroad in the youthful university town of Montpellier as a sophomore in college. The months that I spent in France arguably shaped my life view and mindset more than anything else I’ve accomplished or set out to achieve.
More than the degrees I’ve received, or the half marathons I’ve run, or the elaborate nine-layer cakes I’ve created. All three of these things are, at least to some degree, simply akin to suffering.
The slow-paced nature of existence in le Midi was the perfect setting for self-realization, and provided stellar degustation conditions as well.
I was fortunate enough to play the “I’m abroad and young, I must
spend see as much as possible and take mini-trips every weekend” card a great deal during my time there, and thus visited many incredible places. One such place, Carcassonne, was one of the first in a long line of weekends spent oohing and aahing over some architectural feature or another.
Carcassonne was founded by the Visigoths in the 5th century, although its fortified Cité dates back even further to Roman occupation. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France.
After leaving behind the fortified Cité and its gargoyles and ramparts, I found myself in Le Bistrot d’Augustin, a tourist trap of a restaurant near the Carcassonne train station. Being that the other obvious option, McDo, was a glorified McDonald’s with an accent, I was satisfied with my choice (but saved room for a McFlurry for dessert).
Within the walls of this seemingly mediocre restaurant, I experienced one of my greatest food-place memories. I was served an omelette…. that was red. Qu’est-ce que c’est que ça? Je ne sais pas du tout!
Ever since that fateful omelette day, I have always wondered exactly what it was that I was served. Why didn’t I remember? Why didn’t I ask? Write it down? Send smoke signals? I mean, it was a near-brilliant rose red. Seems a rare find, in retrospect.
Finally, five years later, I have attempted to recreate this fantastic red omelette. Not knowing anything of its composition, its origin, or its interior or exterior ingredients (…eggs?), I devised an appropriate replica.
Sure, it’s a bit more orange than red, not very brilliant in hue, and probably nothing like the one I ate in Carcassonne. But on a positive note, it’s delicious. Perfect for breakfast – or for lunch, as I enjoyed it, paired with some julienned sweet potato strips (fried in bacon, of course).
Tomato Omelette with Crab Meat and Mushrooms
Makes one single-serving omelette
1 tbsp milk
3 large mushrooms
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tin crab meat (3 oz / 85 g)
Swiss cheese, grated
Sauté finely sliced mushrooms in a small amount of butter with salt and paprika to taste. Add 1 tbsp tomato paste and crab meat, and mix well, allowing it to cook until hot. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, thoroughly beat two of the eggs until frothy. Beat in milk and tomato paste. Add several shakes of paprika. Mix in third egg by hand.
Add small amount of butter to frying pan. Pour egg mixture into pan, and allow to set for a minute before adding the mushroom/crab filling on one side of the pan. Top with cheese. Cover pan with a lid and cook several minutes. When top looks nearly cooked, flip un-filled side of egg onto filled side. Let cook one minute more.
Eat, and dream of returning to the lazy hazy crazy days of life in Le Midi.