Waffles for Breakfast, Pancakes for Dinner and Legends of Waffles
Flat Foods and Hopes for IHOP
Long ago, we had IHOP in Ohio's capital city; that's International House of Pancakes.
Late night TV's Craig Ferguson has said that IHOP is on the spectrum of technological gadgetry: iPod, iPadd, iHop, but he still loves the pancakes in their many varieties.
I did as well, until the company left town. Then around AD 2010, the chain pancake houses returned. People rushed to patronize these shops in Central Ohio until Yelp and Google reviews filled up the online sites with negative opinions about poor service, long wait times, overcharges, and failure to receive complete orders. It was not yesterday's House of pancakes and a recent burger promotion chancing the name to IHOB temporarily did not help.
Units in this chain of restaurants do much better according to customer reports in Florida and elsewhere.
You see, everywhere I've lived, except for recently, the stove top and oven have been off kilter or non-working for a time - and pancakes in a microwave just bounce. I've read the microwave cookbooks and tried the frozen pancakes in a box, all to no avail. Pancakes must be real and cooked on the stove top or even a grill outdoors.
That being true, I like pancakes better for dinner and waffles in the morning or at brunch. These two flat foods taste different, smell different, and have a different consistency - a little like Coke® versus Pepsi® and I like those at different times of day as well. Overall, though, I like Lime Coke and Lemon Pepsi, but all types of waffles.
A young child once asked me at a gathering why we have to iron waffles. That was very funny and we all had a good time preparing waffles that day in an educational yet tasty way. I remembered that not only did my father's family in the Midwest have some of the first curling irons around, they also had a few of the early electric waffle irons as well and the old manual types.
During the American Civil War, the American waffle iron was non-electric and made of two scored iron plates much like shallow skillets with a raised grid inside. You poured batter in one, covered it with the other, and cooked one side at a time over a fire in the wood-burning oven or even outdoors when the apple butter was being made over a large fire. When cooked through, you could put apple butter right on them, but syrups, butter, honey, and even homemade jellies were all used.
If you do not have an old fashioned waffle iron, this is a particularly good one that I enjoy quite often. it works better on a gas stove stop than on one that is electric; and a campfire is fine too! Be sure to use oven mitts when handling the metal handles. This setup cooks more evenly than an electric waffle maker, and I've never been burned on it.
Waffle Iron Day Is August 24
On August 24, 1869, Corneilius Swartwout patented the waffle iron. Waffle Week is celebrated in September.
Waffling Through History
In 2009, Time Magazine traced waffle history to the Ancient Greeks, who also used two metal plates together in an arrangement to cook flat cakes. The idea seems to have worked well and gained momentum through the centuries.
The researchers at Time reported that the word "waffle" comes from the word "wafer", which was used and still is central for communion in the Catholic Church and other denominations. Imagine a waffle as a big communion wafer!
A waffle industry grew up in Europe and I like the fact that the French formed a waffle guild to train street vendors in making and selling the best waffles. Chaucer even wrote about waffles in the 1300s in his The Canterbury Tales.
Some Interesting Waffle Misinformation
Where I must take issue with the Time report is the bit about Pilgrims trekking to Holland and bringing waffles back to England and then to North America. Truly, the people who became known later as Pilgrims did not have any flour with them and their grain crop failed as well. They learned about corn cakes from the local Indigenous People, some of my ancestors among them.
Other sources say that Dutch Pilgrims came straight to America in 1620, with their waffle irons and flour. These folks did not come to America. That story was a marketing scheme by American merchants in 1840 to promote sales, sanctity, and a woman's magazine. It all led to a great big Thanksgiving celebration that many of us love today.
In truth. a lower social class divided into "Saints" and "Strangers" did arrive in America, but with little food and no crop seed, but plenty of beer in barrels -- Definitely no waffle irons!
The Saints learned to make corn cakes and ground acorn flour flat cakes from the Eastern Woodlands Native Americans. They had pancakes! But no waffles.
Swedish Chef Makes Flapjacks His Way
Fancy Waffle Technology
An American patent was awarded by the US Patent Office after the Civil War, in 1869, to Mr. Cornelius Swarthout. It was for a cast iron waffle iron that was placed on top of a wood-burning or gas stove top. The iron plates joined with a hinge that swiveled in a cast iron collar. If you have ever used "pie irons" to make fried pies at a camp, you have used a simplified version of the 1869 patent.
Pan cakes, hoe cakes, griddle cakes, and flap jacks were easier to make on a griddle, in a cast iron skillet, or on a clean heated hoe blade (on plantations) over a fire, but waffles were more crunchy and fun and employed advanced technology that was fun. Cooks needed to take care not to touch a hot iron, though.
In 1911, General Electric received a patent and made its first electric waffle iron through the work of Mr. Thomas J. Steckbeck. The iron was a little hard to clean until Teflon® was added to future editions across more companies and cooking spray was invented. My mother had a waffle iron from the 1930s and it made good waffles. It took a bit of scrubbing to clean, but the work was worth the meal.
© 2011 Patty Inglish