On Austen and Omelettes

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Though this week had its share of bumps and bruises, it was also replete with bounties. As is most often the case, the good far outweighed the bad... and anyway, a few nicks never hurt anyone. The two bounties I am most thankful for in the last 168 hours are omelettes and Jane Austen.


Because they are both delicious.

Perhaps this would all make more sense if I introduced myself. My name is Morgan. I'm a student at Brigham Young University. I am an English major with an emphasis in British Literature, which means few things turn me on like an Anglo-Saxon kenning. The brightest star on the horizon for me right now is a spring trip across the pond. For two months, a group of other students and I will be hiking from Edinburgh down to London, not to mention every abbey, moor, and hobbit hole we can manage to find along the way. The premise: English literature. The goal: deliberately living and writing in the wilds of the English landscape. The reality: I must buy waterproof pants.

If I could name a secondary passion, it would most definitely be food. Researching it. Concocting it. Devouring it... Someday, I shall write a cookbook and it will be my opus. Someday.

If you haven't already guessed the meaning behind the name of my blog, it's a reference to a very reasonable ritual practiced by hobbits all over the world. Tolkien, in his genius, effortlessly combined the two most restorative, nourishing, soul-healing mediums of expression: food and literature. As Daniel Coleman would say, "Eat the word."

Which brings me back to omelettes. Omelettes and Jane Austen. One of the most pressing crises of the life of a college student concerns finding that dish that is healthy, filling, inexpensive, tasty, and most of all... prompt. This seems to be an especial problem as far as breakfast/brunch is concerned.

I offer a simple solution: The Power Omelette.

You will need:
  • egg whites (I love the liquid kind that comes in a carton... so easy to just pour!)
  • crimini or portobello mushrooms
  • spinach
  • avocadoes
  • seasoning like black pepper and cayenne pepper

Slice the mushrooms into thin slivers, then sautee them with the spinach over medium-high heat until both are dark and soft (it should only take a couple of minutes). Pour your egg whites over them and cook as you would a regular omelette. Season as you will. I like mine so thick, I have to use two spatulas to successfully flip it over. Once cooked and put on a plate to cool, top with slices of avocadoes.

Now eat.

The entire process should only take you about ten minutes, and you are left with a dish that is diet/diabetic-friendly, high in protein and omega fatty acids, low in carbohydrates, and is delightfully filling.

Over my omelette this morning, I found myself reflecting on the nature of love. Now, before you go gagging over that wonderful omelette, please understand I just wolfed down Jane Austen's Emma in a week. It's not because Valentine's Day is lurking just around the corner... really, it's not.

Blame it on the lit.

Though many enthusiasts assert that all Austen novels are simply snapshots of the leisurely country gentry falling in love within their class, there is a key aspect that differs within each of her texts: every romance Austen writes is totally unique and bears no semblance to any of the others. Take Emma and Mr. Knightley for instance: their relationship could be defined as an extremely intimate friendship built upon mutual respect, and... well... traffic. Their love merges their lives together in a perfect, compatible rhythm... or I should say, their lives merge their love. Next, we have the rather pathetic (sorry, Jane) story of Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram in Mansfield Park. Fanny's sweet, longing, almost idolatrous love for her cousin remains mostly unrequited for the majority of the novel. Only in the end is her good character rewarded with the love she "deserves." On the opposite end of the ring, we have Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. On first meeting, they positively rankle each other. It's almost as if they are a wrench in each others' gears. But like so many other exciting love stories, their hate/pride/prejudice makes a seemless tranformation to sexual attraction.

So what is Austen trying to tell her reader? That love is totally unique? That it can be found in all forms? That, perhaps, there is no correct form, and Fanny can find just as much satisfaction in her justified devotion, as Emma can in her respectful, familial romance, as Elizabeth can find in her witty, sexually tension? I think it's also interesting to note the difference in popularity now between these stories. For Austen, longevity was an important aspect of love since one was going to be stuck with one's spouse in a country manor for a good long while. Emma and Mr. Knightley's romance could be seen as ideal because of the smooth compatibility of their lives. Now, however, you only have to turn on the radio to learn that our cultural interpretation of true love is finding someone who completely upsets the routine of your life, someone who stops you in your tracks, someone who makes you question all of your suppositions. It would make sense that Pride and Prejudice would be the most popular Austen novel today.

But what is the true nature of love? Is it compatibility? Upheaval? Devotion? Longevity? Sexual tension? Is it omelettes?

Happy reading!

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