Fricassee of Words – Charette’s Omelette

Fricassee: Meat cut into pieces and stewed in gravy. Fricassee of Words: Musings on food-inspired expressions, words and word play, with occasional bits and pieces of kitchen jargon too. Don’t stir the pot, go fry an egg, two eggs in a basket are better than one hen in the bush… you get the picture. Here is today’s food-inspired expression for us to pick at.

“You Can’t Make An Omelette Without Breaking Eggs.”

158 - omelette

Meaning – In order to achieve something, it is inevitable that something else be destroyed.

It has been a while since we’ve added to this play-on-words segment of our Blog. Since we have recently (and arbitrarily, we must confess) declared Friday to be the official day for Omelettes at 158 Main, it seems fitting to resume our exploration of food expressions with this nutritious and versatile morning favorite.

We must admit that we do not actually recall using or hearing the expression at hand, other than in a scene in the movie Clue, sometime in the 1980’s. As you might know from the board game bearing the same name, the whole premise is a murder mystery. In the movie scene in question, following a double-murder at a dimmer party, Colonel Mustard instructs the guests to search the house and remarks rather casually, “This is war… Casualties are inevitable. You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. Every cook will tell you that!” – “But look what happened to the cook!” observed one frightened guest.

In truth, the expression is first recorded in a 1796 Irish publication named Walker’s Hibernian Magazine, whose purpose was to present its fortunate readers with a “compendium of entertaining knowledge.” The account in question highlights the capture of a leader of the Royalist counter-revolt in France by the name of François de Charette.

Upon being put on trial and confronted with his responsibility in the death of hundreds of thousand supporters over several years, Charette is said to have agreed, “Yes. Omelets are not made without breaking eggs.” Or, in his own words: “On ne saurait faire d’omelette sans casser des œufs.” Needless to say, he neither tasted an omelette again, or even witnessed the next day.

Thankfully, today, the expression generally applies peaceful endeavors requiring change and sacrifice. We’d like to think that such endeavors may be fueled with abundantly garnished omelettes.

François De Charette

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