food / travel

An Omelet Twist, How A Colonial Legacy Lives On In Vegetarian India

Most Indians are vegetarians. But omelets, a colonial legacy, remain popular in India.

Sanjay Sharma, the omelet chef
Sanjay Sharma, the omelet chef
Jasvinder Sehgal
Jasvinder Seghal

JAIPUR â€" Sanjay Sharma, 53, whips up a buttery cheese omelet at his stall set up in a busy market in this Indian desert city. For more than 30 years, he’s been selling omelets â€" a business he says is growing.

“In the past, I used to sell about 30 omelets a day. But things have changed and people have developed a taste for them,” says Sharma. “In the winter, I now use about 1700 eggs everyday to prepare different omelets.”

Business is so brisk that, in addition to his stall, Sharma has also opened an omelet restaurant called Egg-dee.

In India, breakfast is almost always vegetarian. In the north, people eat paratha â€" a kind of flatbread. It was during British colonial rule that omelets began to be eaten in India. And it continues to this day.

“It’s a specialty that can be prepared within two minutes. It’s very nutritious, healthy and easy to cook,” Sharma says.

Interior decorator Amit Soral, 39, is a loyal customer at Sharma’s stall.

“I have been coming here for the last 25 years. My mother doesn’t cook eggs so my father used to bring me here,” says Soral. “I come here everyday. I’m like a child who is fascinated by chocolate. I am thrilled by the omelet.”

“Colonial rule may be termed bad but it gave us many good things too and omelets are certainly part of that. Indians are enjoying them still,” he says.

In India, omelets have adapted to local tastes. They are fried with chopped onions, green chillies and coriander.

Saurabh Sharma, a historian who has studied traditional Indian food, says that eggs were never part of the ancient Indian Indus civilization: “Tea and omelets were introduced during colonial rule, introduced by western companies invading India. As the officers of these companies had omelets for breakfast, slowly it became part of Indian cuisine.”

Although many think that omelets were first prepared by the Romans, Sharma says that’s not true. “History books show that this was first cooked in France. In my opinion, Bolestin was the first chef who prepared it. In 1603, he shifted from France to Britain and so did the popularity of omelets.”

Sharma, the omelet seller, says he can cook about 150 varieties of the dish. Fashion designer Radhika Sharma, who is a regular at his stall, says his omelets are one-of-a-kind.

“This, we can’t get anywhere else. It’s just the taste,” she says.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!