Great conversations start around the dinner table. The question this morning was: What is the history of the Denver Omelet? Was it named for the city of Denver, Colorado? Here are some interesting finds. From the “Best Denver Omelet (dot) com”,
The History of the Denver Omelette
The history of the Denver omelette is smothered in ham, cheese, green peppers, onions – and maybe even a little egg foo yung. When Denver City was founded in November 1858, there was no mention of the Denver omelette in the annals of the day. Infact, there would be no journalistic record of this delectable treat or anything resembling it until perhaps 50 years later – and then in the context of “the western sandwich,” which was probably served on bread or a sourdough roll.
Some food historians suggest the western sandwich was a favorite among cowboys out on the trail, as it was easy to prepare and they would have had access to most of the ingredients, causing it to become a staple on their cattle drives. No doubt these cowpokes requested similar culinary fare when they stopped in the larger western cities, the biggest of which was Denver. When eastern visitors to the Mile High City were exposed to this unfamiliar menu item, they apparently advised cooks to hold the bread. They also gave it a name that would place it in their memory – and in some eastern cookbooks.
Writer/editor Kyle Wagner has advanced a theory that the Denver omelette evolved from a western-style sandwich created by Chinese cooks working in railroad and logging camps.
Wagner cites noted chef and food writer James Beard for backup of this theory, and alludes to the prominent influence the railroads had on the movement of food throughout the west. Wagner quotes Beard as saying, “It seems to have been called the Western until the railroads made it to Utah, and then folks in Utah apparently renamed it the Denver.” A wise choice, as it’s hard to imagine a Salt Lake City omelette.
* * * *
And from Wikipedia we learn some of the history of the omelette,
The omelette is commonly thought to have originated in the Ancient Near East. Beaten eggs were mixed with chopped herbs, fried until firm, then sliced into wedges. This dish is thought to have travelled to Western Europe via the Middle East and North Africa, with each country adapting the original recipe to produce Italian frittata, Spanish tortilla and the French omelette.
The fluffy omelette is a refined version of an ancient food. According to Alan Davidson, the French word omelette came into use during the mid-16th century, but the versions alumelle and alumete are employed by the Ménagier de Paris (II, 5) in 1393. Rabelais (Pantagruel, IV, 9) mentions an homelaicte d’oeufs, Olivier de Serres an amelette, François Pierre La Varenne’s Le cuisinier françois (1651) has aumelette, and the modern omelette appears in Cuisine bourgoise (1784).
According to the founding legend of the annual giant Easter omelette of Bessières, Haute-Garonne, when Napoleon Bonaparte and his army were traveling through southern France, they decided to rest for the night near the town of Bessières. Napoleon feasted on an omelette prepared by a local innkeeper that was such a culinary delight that he ordered the townspeople to gather all the eggs in the village and to prepare a huge omelette for his army the next day.
On March 19, 1994, the largest omelette (128.5 m²; 1,383 ft²) in the world at the time was made with 160,000 eggs in Yokohama, Japan, but it was subsequently overtaken by an omelette made by the Lung Association in Brockville Memorial Centre, Ontario, Canada on May 11, 2002 — it weighed 2.95 tonnes (2,950 kg). On other occasions, modern omelettes, unlike 19th century ones cooked with six or eight beaten eggs in the pan, are made separately for each individual, of two or three eggs.
And finally, here are some variations of the omelette. (Wikipedia and others)
An Iranian omelette is made of egg, tomato and sometimes pepper. In Iran, beaten eggs are quickly cooked with butter or oil in a frying pan called a “Khagine”.
A Chinese omelette can be egg foo yung or an oyster omelette.
A Denver omelette, also known as a Southwest omelette or Western omelette, is an omelette filled with diced ham, onions, and green bell peppers, though there are many variations on fillings. Often served in the Southwestern United States, this omelette sometimes has a topping of cheese and a side dish of hashbrowns or fried potatoes.
An egg white omelette is a variation which omits the yolks to remove fat and cholesterol, which reside exclusively in the yolk portion of an egg.
The French omelette is smoothly and briskly cooked in a very, very hot pan specially made for the purpose. The technique relies on clarified butter (to ensure a high smoke point) in relatively great ratio to the eggs (prevents sticking and cooks the eggs more quickly). Good with just salt and pepper, this omelette is often flavored with tomatoes and finely chopped herbs (often fines herbes or tarragon, chervil, rosemary and thyme) or chopped onions. French omelettes are also removed from the pan in a manner different from an American omelette. They can be rolled out in a trifold design or just simply slide out of the pan directly into a plate and when made correctly have little to no color on them.
A frittata is a kind of open-faced Italian omelette that can contain cheese, vegetables, or even leftover pasta. Frittate are cooked slowly. Except for the cooking oil, all ingredients are fully mixed with the eggs before cooking starts.
An Indian omelette is usually made with the addition of spices which vary by region. Most commonly used are finely chopped green chilies, chopped onions, coriander leaf or powder, cumin and a pinch of turmeric, all of which are added to the egg before it is whisked. An exception to this is the tomato omelette which doesn’t contain egg, but is called an omelette simply because of its resemblance to an omelette.
Tamagoyaki, Japanese omelette Omurice, Fried rice rolled with omelette.
In Japan, tamagoyaki is a traditional omelette. Omelette (pronounced omuretsu) can mean a Western omelette. Omurice (from the English words “omelette” and “rice”) is an omelette filled with rice and usually served with a large amount of tomato ketchup. Omu-soba is an omelette with yakisoba as its filling.
In the Netherlands, a boerenomelet (“farmer’s omelette”), photo on right, is a popular dish, usually consisting of 2 to 3 eggs, a mixture of sautéed onions, mushrooms, potatoes, bell peppers, leeks, garden peas, salt and pepper (for seasoning). The dish has many variations. Pictured here is but one variation.
The Spanish tortilla de patatas is a traditional and very popular thick omelette containing sliced potatoes sautéed in cooking oil. It often includes sliced onions too (tortilla de patata con cebolla), and less commonly other additional fillings such as cheese, bell peppers, and cooked diced ham.
Well, there you have some great trivia on the omelette! And now you know the origin of the “Denver Omelette”! Cheers.