Adieu To The Egg-White Omelet; The Yolk Was On Us

Adieu To The Egg-White Omelet; The Yolk Was On Us

By Chris Erskine, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

The egg-white omelet, America’s reigning symbol of bland dining and misguided nutritional advice, died on a recent Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. It was 42.

The cause of death was unclear, though longtime fans of the egg-white omelet cited a recent study that found dietary cholesterol played a much smaller role in overall health than many had thought. In late February, medical experts admitted that there was no basis for the long-held assumption that such items as egg yolk, avocado, and shrimp played a significant part in cholesterol levels in the bloodstream.

Cholesterol is no longer a “nutrient of concern,” an advisory panel of health experts told the federal government.

News of the demise of the ubiquitous egg-white omelet sent much of the nation into nutritional turmoil. One expert noted that the widespread cholesterol warning, like much dietary advice, was “never supported by science.”

Separated from its yolks at an early age, the egg-white omelet spent its early years in California, then moved on to fashionable eateries across the country. For health-conscious baby boomers, egg yolks were soon regarded with the same disdain as secondhand smoke and sleazy CBS sitcoms.

Though still legal in most states, egg yolks fell out of favor with cooks hoping to lighten overly rich foods. Despite the yolks’ sunny hue and textural supremacy, few supporters stood up in defense of them.

Yet, in kitchens across the nation, expert cooks found there were no real substitutes. Egg yolk added the sort of creaminess cooks and diners craved across all spectrums of culinary creations, from frostings to frittatas. Despite offering a divine spiritual alchemy that no other ingredient could ever really match, egg yolks were often dumped with the coffee grounds and cantaloupe rinds. The collective palate of the nation seemed to suffer.

Meanwhile, the egg-white omelet became a pseudo-health superstar, despite remaining so bland as to be almost inedible. Even better cooks found that no matter what you mixed in, egg whites remained only slightly satisfying, offering the same level of gastronomic happiness as gnawing on your own elbow.

“No one ever smiled after finishing an egg-white omelet,” one chef recalled after the announcement.

Despite it all, the egg-white omelet still managed to change the food industry, part of a health-obsessed zeitgeist that led to such publications as Cooking Light and to ingredients no one ever considered eating before, like kale and skim-milk ricotta.

Over the years, the consumption of supposedly healthful but awful foods took its toll on Americans at every level. They became increasingly hostile and suspicious toward one another, and the ill will spilled into politics, business, and everyday life.

The simmering frustration over egg-white omelets eventually made its way into new media and was credited for much of the growth of the Internet. The constant vitriol on Internet forums, many thought, was a direct result of the unsatisfying egg-white omelet.

Nora Ephron, the late screenwriter and journalist, was one of the few significant voices to take on the ridiculousness of such omelets. In 2010, Ephron wrote: “You don’t make an omelet by taking out the yolks. You make one by putting additional yolks in. A really great omelet has two whole eggs and one extra yolk, and by the way, the same thing goes for scrambled eggs.”

In recent years, consumers desperate for sound nutritional advice were increasingly baffled by the seesaw nature of what they were hearing. Decades of government warnings about fats and oils proved increasingly shaky. After years of shunning butter, consumers were told that margarine was even worse, described by some as “chemical gunk.”

The findings on their beloved morning coffee were even more confusing. One day coffee was good for you; the next day it was the worst thing since nuclear sludge.

Other questions surfaced: For instance, if one glass of red wine a night was good for someone’s health, wouldn’t two glasses be twice as good?

“What about an entire bottle?” some wondered.

“Or a case?”

The purported health benefits of dark chocolate, meanwhile, led to some extreme behavior. One young mother in Santa Monica recently ate her weight in Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark Chocolate, then collapsed from an endorphin rush during yoga class. Authorities reported that it took six paramedics, all aspiring actors, to revive her. She eventually ran off with one of them.

Survivors of the egg-white omelet include lettuce wraps, tofu lasagna, and fat-free sour cream.

Services are pending.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Photo: The egg-white omelet might see a decline in popularity among the health-conscious thanks to a recent study that found dietary cholesterol plays a much smaller role in overall health than many had thought. (TNS)

Chris Erskine: Harold Ramis Put ‘Caddyshack’ In The Bag

Chris Erskine: Harold Ramis Put ‘Caddyshack’ In The Bag

By Chris Erskine, Los Angeles Times

There are only a few true masterpieces that debuted in my lifetime: the ‘64 Mustang; Sandra Bullock’s perfect chin; and “Caddyshack,” whose director, Harold Ramis, died Feb. 24 at age 69, too damn soon, as if only on life’s 14th hole.

And yet 1,000 laughs over par.

From the snickering hiss of the fairway sprinklers to Rodney Dangerfield’s bug-eyed dancing, “Caddyshack” mixed all that was right about sports and movies into one great comedy overture. Though panned by critics at the time, the 1980 movie remains a classic by any measure, and the funniest sports movie of all time, hands down.

“Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper now about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac … It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole!”

Life is the longest par five, so lord help us if we don’t have movies such as Ramis’ “Caddyshack” to help us through. They appear as little bits of fluff but are really spun gold.

If only life were always this funny.

Walk into any clubhouse in America and you’ll find some wiseguy — he may be 28, he may be 58 — who can quote “Caddyshack” the way we all wish we could quote Shakespeare or Twain.

“So we finish 18 and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, ‘Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know?’ And he says, ‘Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.’ So I got that going for me, which is nice.”

Even President Barack Obama noted Ramis’ passing, calling him “one of America’s greatest satirists.” But with due respect, Ramis didn’t make movies for movers and shakers. He made them for people who don’t dominate a room, or slip effortlessly into social situations. He made movies for the rest of us.

Filmed in a sweaty fall in south Florida, “Caddyshack” extended our childhoods. The movie marked Ramis’ directorial debut. The son of a Chicago grocer, he actually was a Cinderella story. Outta nowhere.

“He had everything you wanted from a director, and he had it from the beginning,” recalls Michael O’Keefe, who played caddie Danny Noonan. “He was the glue, and he was affable and so smart. He engendered trust in everybody immediately.”

O’Keefe explains how the script changed on set, as it became clear that Noonan’s coming-of-age story had to take a back seat to the improvised brilliance of Dangerfield, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and Ted Knight.

“Harold and (co-writers) Doug Kenney and Brian Murray said we’ve got to go with these four guys and … just take this thing for a ride,” O’Keefe says.

When a co-star complained privately to O’Keefe about their diminished roles, the 24-year-old actor explained, “Look, we’re looking at the Marx Brothers, and we’re Zeppo.”

The result was a comedy masterpiece, with reference points reaching to Groucho and Preston Sturges. Like many of the most beloved comedies, it is subversive, spontaneous, a little dangerous. Much of it was improvised.

“Bill’s part wasn’t even written,” O’Keefe explains during a rehearsal break in New York. “There were just notes: ‘Carl tries to kill a gopher.’ Those scenes are all Bill and Harold.”

Most of the principals were still on the way up and, though stories of misbehavior and drug use on set are legendary, “These guys were dedicated and they were ambitious and they knew they had a hit comedy on their hands,” O’Keefe says now.

Chase was at his cool-guy best. Dangerfield made his film debut, and according to lore, didn’t know quite what to do the first time Ramis yelled “Action!”

O’Keefe played Noonan, relaxed and natural in scenes with some of the best improv talents in history. Ted Knight was Ted Knight.

“I like to say we were struck by comedy lightning,” says Cindy Morgan, who played Lacey Underall, the leggy blonde who roamed the course like she owned it.

“It was kamikaze filmmaking at its best,” she says from her home, 30 miles from the course where the movie was filmed.

She remembers tanker trucks pumping gasoline into the fairways without knowledge of the course owners, and the three-story fireballs that followed.

“Then they painted it green and blew it up again the next day,” she says.

Most of all, she remembers Ramis’ gentle genius, and the collaborative atmosphere he created.

“I walk out one day and there’s Billy swinging at the mums,” she says of one of the film’s most memorable scenes. “It was like making home movies of my family behaving badly.”

And, in the end, comedy lightning.

Photo: justinhoch via flickr