How to make a Spanish omelette

First, move to Barcelona and teach English to make a living, shuffling from terrible flat to terrible flat, having your electricity shut off in one, going to another without heating, going to a third with rats scurrying through your clothes. Meet a widow who has an impossibly gorgeous 16-year-old daughter who, while already getting top marks in her English class, wants to get better at oral comprehension, because she is also the #11 ranked swing dancer in the world, and she knows that she’ll need to speak and understand English in order to progress internationally. Have the mother suggest that besides paying you, her daughter will also give you swing dancing lessons – so, in effect, you’ll be getting paid for your work and get free weekly dance lessons as well. After the first one, when she teaches you the basics of the Balboa, which is a dance where the woman pushes her chest against the man and jumps up and down very rapidly, you suggest that what you’d really find beneficial are cooking lessons from the mother, because 16 is still 16 and not 18, no matter what the laws are in Spain. The mother agrees to what she understands; first English, then Dancing, then Cooking, and she will still pay you. You resign yourself to your fate.

After Barcelona, move to Cleveland, Ohio. After your first-year law school finals are over, drive east, not knowing where you’re going, before the days of smart phones, when you could still get lost. Stop in Mesopotamia, the place between the rivers, and wander into a warm Amish antique shop on a cold December afternoon; meet the proprietor, Eli Miller, who is about 72 then, and talk to him for an hour. Return countless times over the next ten years, and, eventually, purchase several cast-iron skillets from him – all antiques, most seasoned, some not. Get one tiny skillet, about 20 in diameter, just for eggs, that your girlfriend at the time decides to call “Little Joe,” which you don’t understand, but she seems enthused about it, and, at the time, that’s what matters.

Get married to a very understanding woman and move to London. Bring almost 75 pounds of cast iron in your luggage and shipped boxes; along with Eli’s skillets, you’ve also collected Le Creuset Dutch ovens, old Ohio highway lanterns, an umbrella stand from an inn on the National Road that dates to the 1850s, all from Eli. When Spring comes, take over four of the apartment complex’s common garden beds with your wife, and plant a Japanese maple, rhubarb, wildflowers, spinach, arugula/rocket, garlic, onions, basil, thyme, rosemary, mint, potatoes, leeks, courgettes/zucchini, and carrots. Spend the next few months battling slugs and snails, which you’ve never really dealt with before, but learn to hate with a passion. Eventually realize that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. When October comes around, and you’re home sick with what the doctor calls an “impressive” chest infection, go out in the garden and realize that you can harvest some of the things you’ve planted, including very small onions and exactly four medium-sized potatoes.

Put Little Joe on the stove and turn the flame to medium-low. Pour in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and let it heat.

Cut one of the potatoes lengthwise, then lengthwise again, so you have four giant wedges. Cut each wedge into slices, about 1mm thick and 2cm long. Put them all in Little Joe and let them sizzle. Cut up one of the small onions into very thin slices, and, when the potato slices have started to soften, which takes time because they’re fresh potatoes, only a day out of the ground, and very hard, put the onion, which is not very potent but very pretty in its translucency, on top, then mix it in with the potatoes to cook. Turn it to low, as if you’re sweating it all together. Make sure there’s enough oil.

When the potatoes are soft enough to smash through with the olive wood spatula you bought in Paris with the same ex-girlfriend shortly before you broke up with her, beat three eggs in a glass. Pour them over the potatoes and onions and stir it all around, making it even on top but ensuring there is egg under the potatoes to prevent them from sticking. Let them heat until the egg has set on the bottom.

Now the tricky part. Place a plate upside-down over Little Joe, and then, with extremely deft maneuvering, flip it over so that the omelette flops onto the plate, cooked-side up. Lift the skillet; the omelette should just sit there, uncooked-side down, with uncooked egg leaking out. Put the skillet back on the fire, add a little olive oil, and use a fork to pus the omelette back into the skillet, cooked-side up and uncooked-side down. Let it cook for one or two minutes. Then, turn off the heat and let it sit for a minute or so; add pink Himalayan salt from the special grinder your wife bought because other grinders are actually not all that intelligently designed, and realize that you used organic eggs, because that’s what she likes to buy, and, as you slice into it, reflect on how you ended up in your living room at this precise moment, and be grateful for all of the things that got you to where you are today, and think about all of the other magical things will happen to you in the future, and wonder if Sonia is still dancing.

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