By Cindy Regnier Hubby likes to indulge in a waffle supper on occasion. He is convinced they are far better than pancakes, though I can’t see the difference beyond one being baked and the other fried. So how did someone sometime envision a waffle made from pancake batter? When the hubs suggested I look into it for a blog post, I kind of pooh-poohed the idea. Waffles can’t be old enough for an historical blog topic. You need non-stick waffle irons and electricity to make them – right? Nope. I stand corrected. What I found out was really quite interesting. Waffles have been around for hundreds of years, maybe even since the 13th Century. Not waffles like Americans know and love them today, but waffles nonetheless. Here’s what I learned:
The first waffle irons with the characteristic honeycomb pattern appeared in the 1200’s when a craftsman designed and forged cooking irons. The original irons were hinged and the batter poured in and pressed together, much like we do today. The first waffles were baked over an open fire, of course, rather than with electricity, but they quickly became quite popular. This time period is when the word “guafre” was coined. The English adaption of this French word became “wafla.” You can still find this printed word in some old English recipes.
As the hand forged waffle irons required to make them were scarce, most waffles were sold by street vendors. By the 16th Century, they were a well-known staple for all social classes. The poorest folks made them from basic flour and water, more like a thick biscuit while the more well-to-do added ingredients like eggs, milk, and honey. In the 1800’s Waffle “Frolics” or parties become the rage in the South. Guests topped their waffles with sweet molasses or syrup. Some even used a savory kidney stew So guess where the popular-today southern treat of Chicken and Waffles originated?
The first waffle iron patent was issued in1869 to Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York.
The anniversary of the patent marks what’s now known as National Waffle Day – August 24. By 1911 the first commercial electric waffle iron was created by General Electric, and by the 1930’s the appliance became a staple in the American kitchen.
But what about those things we pull out of the freezer and stick in a toaster? “Eggo” was introduced in U.S. grocery stores in 1953, originally called “Froffles,”. The name changed in 1955 because everyone referred to them as “Eggos” due to their eggy taste.
Belgian waffles, as we know them today, debuted at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 with an enterprising vendor selling his wife’s recipe for Brussels waffles—fluffy yeast waffles with strawberries and whipped cream. Apparently he changed the name to Belgian from Brussels so they weren’t associated with those little green vegetables so many of us find distasteful!
If you love waffles , I hope you remember some of these fun facts the next time you treat yourself. Just for fun let me know how you like to eat waffles. Savory or sweet? Syrupy? Lots of butter? Just between us, my favorite way is plain and toasty, straight from the waffle iron.
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