Sunday, 9 April 2006


One of the world’s great tourist traps is Mont St Michel, where the Hotel Poulard became famous for the omelettes made by the proprietress. On the web there are some 27,000 pages in English with a reference to la Mère Poulard, and twice as many in French (with slightly less referring to the historic Abbey; the French have their priorities right). Many of them give recipes for the omelette which differ widely from the only one ever revealed by its creator. In a letter dated 6 June 1922, responding to the request of a celebrated Parisian restaurateur and collector of cookery books, she wrote as follows:

Monsieur Viel,
Voici la recette de l'omelette: je casse de bons oeufs dans une terrine, je les bats bien, je mets un bon morceau de beurre dans la poêle, j'y jette les oeufs et je remue constamment.
Je suis hereuse, monsieur, si cette recette vous fait plaisir.
[quoted in Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking]

The menu at her hotel was always the same: the famous omelette, ham, a fried sole, pré-salé lamb cutlets with potatoes, a roast chicken, salad and dessert. With cider and butter on the table (this is Normandy) it cost, before the 1914 war, 2.50 fr.
Madame Poulard founded the hotel in 1888 and died in 1931 at the age of eighty, though she had retired many years before. Later there were two establishments claiming to serve the one-and-only true omelette Poulard and charging up to $40 for it. Since 2003 Michel Bruneau, founder of the Michelin 2-star La Bourride in Caen has been the master chef at La Mère Poulard and no doubt his omelette is pretty good, though to justify his prices he probably has to make more of a business with the preparation of it than Mme Poulard described in her letter to M.Viel.

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