When 'Phantom Thread' got Oscar-nomination for Best Omelette Film Ever category

The movie is set in the fashion industry, but seems to be more about food, especially elaborate breakfasts.

When 'Phantom Thread' got Oscar-nomination for Best Omelette Film Ever category
The O scar-nominated Phantom Thread is set in the fashion industry, but seems to be more about food. Specifically elaborate breakfasts, though other meals also feature. Even more specifically, it is a Great Omelette Movie. If an Oscar for Best Film Omelette Ever existed, Phantom Thread would be in the running.

It wouldn’t win though. Front runner would be Tampopo (1985), the Japanese cult film about a noodle shop, but with entertaining scenes about other foods. One of the best shows a tramp cooking a rice stuffed omelette for a kid. His skill makes for culinary visual poetry, as the omelette is mixed, cooked and served in seconds — all while dodging a security guard.

Runner-up would be Big Night (1996), a melancholy film about two brothers trying to save their Italian restaurant. At the end, facing failure, one wordlessly cooks an omelette for his brother and their waiter. Their hopes are lost, but the casual skill shown in making the omelette survives, and the power that sharing a simple meal brings.

Phantom Thread’s omelette moment is not as visually grabbing, though more central — and weird—to the plot. The shots of lavishly melting butter and golden eggs splayed across a steaming hot pan, setting to the French ideal of a just-set skin holding lightly runny interiors, shows how the speed of omelette making perfectly suits the compressed needs of film language.

Sadly, I can’t think of Indian films that showcase omelettes. We prefer our omelettes firmer than the French, if not as solid as the cakelike frittatas of Mediterranean cuisines. But there’s still delicious drama to be depicted as chillies, tomatoes and coriander leaves are diced, mixed with eggs and sizzled up into savoury circles.

The most basic way to eat this is really hot and stuffed in a pav or between slices of bread toasted on the same hot greasy pan used to make the omelette. The reverse version is good too, where the bread slice is first toasted and then eggs added to make an enveloping omelette. If untoasted bread is soaked in the eggs and then cooked you have the Indian version of pain perdu or French toast, far better, I think, than the sweet version made abroad.

There are other versions like the thick Parsi pora, perhaps descended from the frittata like kukus of Iran. Or the almost chapatti-like use that large thin omelettes are put to in some meat serving ‘military’ hotels in South India. And then there is the humble omelette curry, where the eggs stand in for the meat that most people expect.

Few cookbooks give recipes or restaurants serve them, but versions are made across India, from Goa’s ros omelettes to Bengal’s dimer dhokar dalna, and comparisons to meatier dishes don’t do them justice. The curry soaked omelettes have their own texture, slightly fibrous, yet yielding and delicious in a very different way from meats. If Bollywood featured them we might get our own, perhaps winning, entry to the Omelette Oscars.
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