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Wednesday December 10, 2014

Egg on face for creators of gigantic Spanish tortilla

The largest Spanish tortilla in the world?

Many moons ago while working as an adjudicator for the Guinness Book of Records I had the good fortune to meet all kinds of extraordinary record breakers. There were also times when I’d be sent off to some foreign clime to invigilate a record that had been organised by an entire community, often raising huge sums for charity. Some of my more peculiar judging assignments included the largest trifle on Weymouth beach, biggest conga line in Miami, fastest hand shaker in Helsinki and a festival of record breaking in Korea.

Last summer the local council of the Basque town of Vitoria had the grand idea of making the world’s largest Spanish omelette, hoping that it would generate masses of positive PR for the town and attract lots of tourists. It applied to Guinness World Records but found to its dismay that the book would not accept its three tonne attempt, claiming that it had been beaten by a larger Japanese version.

Vitoria town council, with support from the Spanish Capital of Gastronomy Association, shelled out 45,000€ on the stunt which was presided over by respected chef Senén González. Ingredients included two tonnes of eggs and potatoes as well as 150 litres of olive oil. The resulting ten thousand portions of Spanish tortilla were served up to locals and tourists in the jubilant town but sadly it’s all ended in tears. The town has been scoffed at by the Spanish press and the poor mayor, generally regarded as a good egg, has received a lot of stick.
Apparently the Japanese omelette included milk rather than olive oil which, if true, would means that the two omelettes evidently didn’t follow the same recipe, in which case the record category is a nonsense. In my day, Norris McWhirter, the founder of the Guinness Book of Records, was always very strict about ensuring that would-be record holders fully understood that they had to follow rules to the letter and in the case of recipes, use only specified ingredients. It also strikes me as rather odd that the Japanese opted to create a Spanish stalwart rather than a distinctly local dish and one has to wonder whether it was just a straightforward omelette or actually included potato as Spanish tortilla demands.

Rule setting for record attempts is a complex business and the fact that the Spanish town created individual omelettes that were fused together in one large pan could have proved its undoing. Meanwhile, perhaps cracking under the strain, the Spanish Capital of Gastronomy Association, is appealing the decision based on the difference in recipes employed. One has to crack a few eggs to make an omelette so I wish Vitoria the best of luck in its robust attempt to overturn the decision. As they say, break an egg.

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