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Oct 5, 200912:00 AM
The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde

Errol Laborde Visits a Really Big Omelette

Here’s a tip: The next time a general comes riding through your town with an army marching behind him, do not fix him an omelette. That, according to legend, is what the people of Bessières, France, learned when Napoleon Bonaparte showed up on his way to another conquest. The little general was hungry, so a local innkeeper served him a concoction in which he mixed several eggs together, threw in some spices and called it an omelette. Napoleon liked what he ate, so much that he ordered all the town’s people to gather their eggs and prepare an omelette large enough to, literally, feed an army.
   

Although the people of Bessières were apparently left eggless, there was some benefit from the experience. The idea of fixing omelettes in a large quantity became a local tradition, magnanimously modified to feed the poor on Easter. Those who did the cooking even formed their own society known as the Confrerie.
      

Napoleon tried to conquer the world but failed. The Confrerie, on the other hand, has—sort of. In 1984 three residents of Abbeville, La., attended the annual omelette event in Bessières and were knighted as chevaliers. They were given official permission to bring the art of making a really big omelette to the new world with the American epicenter being Abbeville.
   

Now on the first full weekend of each November people gather at Magdalen Square, where there are booths, vendors, music and general partying. On that Sunday afternoon there is parade in which the local members of the Confrerie d’Abbeville, all dressed as chefs, march around the square accompanied by the official TABASCO sauce drill team. After their march, they gather at their work area near the square where the logs are lit beneath a specially made frying pan practically big enough to be seen from the moon (on a really clear day with a really good telescope).
       

As a crowd gathers to watch the spectacle, the chefs crack open 5,000 eggs to be stirred into in the pre-greased pan. With the precision of ballerinas going through their steps, the chefs toss in spices, cheese and even crawfish while fellow colleagues stir. Back at the work stations, other chefs slice the bread to be served with the omelette.
      

This event was not the only creative moment in Abbeville on that day last year. At a Mass in the nearby St. Mary Magdalen church, the local choir was so good that it could have been the house chorus for St. Patrick’s in New York or St. Peter’s in Rome. Even if you don’t like eggs, visit Abbeville for the quaintness of the town and the magnificent church choir.


Back at the frying pan, watching over the proceedings was a delegation from Bessières and representatives from Granby, Quebec, where an omelette event is also held. There are now eight ordained places on the omelette tour, including villages in Belgium and Argentina.


Last year there was also a certified omelette-making superstar at the gathering, San Franciscan Howard Helmer, who holds the Guinness World Record of “world’s fastest omelette maker.” It is hard not to be in awe of a man who once cooked 427 omelettes in 30 minutes and who, on another occasion, flipped an omelette 30 times in 34 seconds. Why? He’s been on TV with Regis and with Oprah — and now he’s a star in Abbeville. That should be reason enough. Also, maybe he just likes omelettes.

So apparently did the hundreds of people who stood in line for a serving. As the sun began its slide west of Magdalen Square, once more the Confrerie had fed the hungry and the curious. It was a noble effort, though one wonders how the world would be different, and chickens more rested, had Napoleon been allergic to eggs.
 


Abbeville's Giant Omelette Celebration will be held Nov. 7-8, 2009. 
The omelette procession begins at 1:30 Sunday afternoon at Magdalen Square. Cooking begins at 2 p.m. For more information, please go to
www.giantomelette.org
. Due to work being done in St. Mary Magdalen Church, the 2009 Omelette Mass (9 a.m. Sunday) will be held at the Vermilion Catholic High School Auditorium.

      
    

Let us know what you think. Any comments about this article? Write to errol@myneworleans.com. All responses are subject to being published, as edited, in this newsletter. Please include your name and location. 

 


Krewe: The Early New Orleans Carnival - Comus to Zulu
by Errol Laborde is available at all area bookstores. Books can also be ordered via e- mail at gdkrewe@aol.com or (504) 895-2266.

 



WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 11:30 P.M. ON WYES-TV, CHANNEL 12.

NOW ON WIST RADIO-690 AM, THE ERROL LABORDE SHOW, FRIDAYS, 6 P.M; SATURDAYS, 8 A.M. AND 2 P.M.; AND SUNDAYS, 8 A.M. AND 5 P.M. THE PROGRAM IS ALSO STREAMED ON THE WIST WEB SITE.
    

 
 

 
 

 

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The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde

about

Errol LabordeErrol Laborde holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of New Orleans and is the editor-in-chief of Renaissance Publishing. In that capacity he serves as editor/associate publisher of New Orleans Magazine and editor/publisher of Louisiana Life magazine.

Errol is also a producer and a regular panelist on Informed Sources, a weekly news discussion program broadcast on public television station WYES-TV, Channel 12. Errol is a three-time winner of the Alex Waller Award, the highest award given in print journalism by the Press Club of New Orleans. He also received the National and City Regional Magazine Association Award for Best Column for his New Orleans Magazine column, beating out 76 city magazines across the country. In 2013, Errol received the award for the "Best News Affiliated Blog," awarded by the Press Club of New Orleans.

Errol’s most recent books are Krewe: The Early Carnival from Comus to Zulu and Marched the Day God: A History of the Rex Organization. In his free time he enjoys playing tennis and traveling with his wife, Peggy, to anywhere they can get away to, but some of his favorite spots are the Caribbean and historic locations around Louisiana. You can reach Errol at (504) 830-7235 or errol@myneworleans.com.

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