When I sat down to write this post (last night at 9:20 after serious research on YouTube studying the socioeconomic ramifications of cats chasing laser pointers), I thought to myself that I don't want to be known for this topic. I don't want to be the guy that does the silly holidays. I want to enlighten, humor, and broaden perspectives. Tell the inspirational story of a 65-year old Somalian gynecologist that fights warlords to save her personally funded hospital. Explore unique facets of science, and illuminate classic films featuring Nicolas Cage or Tim “Spicy” Curry. That is, until I discovered that today is National Waffle Day. I am not even joking.
Yes, on this day in 1869, Cornelius Swarthout patented the first U.S. waffle iron, to be made available in every home and kitchen, thus forever cementing the delicious morsel in our hearts. Most sources on this holiest of holy days leave the topic at, "Waffles is om nom nom," but there is an actual history of the waffle. One that, if viewed on Wikipedia is depressingly well researched and sourced.
The English word "waffle" is believed to be closely related to the Dutch word "wafel" which is then tenuously tied to the Middle Dutch word "wafele." While the first proper waffles didn't appear until the 14th century, their history actually goes back as far as the 9th to 10th centuries depending on the source. They begin with oublies, which were thin wafers closely related to the communion wafers, and were pressed using various shaped-two sided irons imprinting a rich tapestry designs on to the pastry including coats of arms, animals, historical scenes, and Jesus crucified (fun times).
Already spreading in popularity across Western Europe, accelerated when Crusaders in the 13th century began returning with unique spices and flavors to include with the pastries. The growing demand lead to the formation of the Oublieurs Guild in 1270, which handled distribution of the small treats, would later do the same for all contemporaneous light pastries to follow including what would become the Waffle. That's right, there was a Waffle Guild. Presumably they would have gangland-style clashes with the Lollypop Guild over control of the yellow brick road and the seedier parts of munchkin land.
The first ever printed recipe for waffles appeared in a short note from an anonymous 14th century French gentleman to his young wife, not because she couldn't cook, but rather because he was really jonesing for some fluffy battered goodness. The recipe was simple and imprecise, calling for a few beaten eggs, salt to taste, whatever feels good on the flour, and wine. Yep. Wine. Leave it to the French.
By the mid-18th century, various recipes for waffles spread throughout the European and American world. Waffles had become so popular it's rumored that Thomas Jefferson returned from Europe proudly displaying a waffle iron to all of his friends, setting a trend for parties devoted to the consumption of the delectable treats. These little underground soirees were known as Waffle Frolics.
In the modern day, there are dozens of verities of waffle spanning every continent, not counting the genius and mind-bending modifications such as the waffle cone. Belgium, famous for the waffle that shares its name, actually has many countless recipes and varieties. In fact, no town, city district, or tiny hamlet in Belgium is worth visiting, which lacks not only its own beer recipe, but its own unique waffle recipe. In celebration of this world famous pastry, I recommend immediately going to your nearest Waffle Hut, and eating yourself stupid on these unforgettable anytime pastries.