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Omelettes, Micromastery and line sensitivity.

Since writing Micromastery I’ve kept up my omelette making, always seeking ways to improve. The style in the book is the rustic country-style omelette with a butter-browned base marbled with the lines made by scouring with a fork during the frying process. But since then I have gravitated more towards the classical style omelette which in truth is closer to scrambled eggs in concept than to a fluffy pancake which I suppose is how I used to think about omelettes. There are some great YouTube videos by top French chefs (André Soltner and others) that I really recommend if you want to see some masters at work. With a classical omelette you keep the pan off the heat as much as on it- that’s how you regulate the heat. You don’t want it too hot either- the bottom of the omelette should be uniform pale yellow and not brown at all. You flash the egg around in the pan with a fork, kind of like making scrambled eggs except you don’t want bare bits of pan showing through. When the top is still wet you gently roll it into a cigar shape and serve. That soft interior is what gives a classical omelette its heavenly melt in the mouth taste. It also teaches a good lesson- it’s pretty hard to undercook an omelette but it’s darned easy to over cook one and serve up some tasty rubber. This reveals what I call ‘line sensitivity’. Take painting a wall when you come up to the ceiling (which you want another colour). You have to be really careful on one side of the line- any mistake will pollute the ceiling with unwanted paint. But on the other side you can flap around with your brush and it’ll be absorbed by all the other paint used on the wall. With the omelette the line sensitivity is about focusing on NOT over cooking rather worrying about it being not cooked enough. You can undercook potatoes easily- not so omelettes- the line sensitivity is different. This takes the pressure off. Instead of walking a mental tightrope you are just butting up against one barrier with lots of freedom behind you for any errors. I think the main thing is that removing of mental pressure. To get good at something you have to be able to play at it a little. And you can’t ‘play’ if you’re worried and trying too hard. Other line-sensitivities: in film photography when you over expose shots you’ll usually be able to retrieve some kind of picture, but if you underexpose you may have something that is simply muddy- so err on the side of over exposure. Of course over time you get better and better at judging the line but this gives you room to manoevre when you are starting out. In long distance walking always plan with a very achievable daily distance in mind. You can always go further if you want. But if you plan even with a very slightly (a few km more) over ambitious plan it can ruin everything- you get blisters, run out of food, find you are far from shops etc. So I think working out which is the sensitive side of the line before you start is a worthwhile thing to do. You can be assured of success without having to worry too much. You get to play and have fun which is, of course, essential…

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