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Welcome to stuff you missed in History Class, A production of I Heart Radio. Hello and welcome to the podcast, I'm Holly Fry, and I'm Tracey Wilson. Going to make a confession right up front here. I cannot resist the call of the novelty waffle iron.
Can't I buy them that they don't need?
I love them. And that's actually how I became interested in waffles. I before I started buying things that would help me make Deathstar waffles, I would have told you I was a pancake person. I think just because I grew up with pancakes. Well, and you can also make pancakes in front shapes with little pancake molds. That's true. Although you don't usually get the same level of detail, but both utterly delicious. And I thought, you know, 20/20 has been a weird year.
Let's throw in more fun episodes and waffle seemed like a good one. Waffles are, of course, very popular and quite commonplace on tables and as a street food around the world. But they've evolved a whole lot over time to become the vehicle that most of us think of them as. So today we're going to take a peek at the waffles origins and the various iterations of dough or batter cooked between two hot plates. Humankind has been figuring out how to make hot cakes really for millennia.
All kinds of pulpy compositions of ground grains cooked on hot rocks go all the way back to the Neolithic age. There is evidence of flat hot cakes made from cereal grains flipped to ensure cooking on both sides during this time and really various cultures all around the globe. Yeah, the waffle history is we'll talk about it is largely European to develop what we think of. But like everybody was figuring out how to cook with grains and, you know, sometimes a little water and make paste that could make a little flat cake.
With the Iron Age starting in twelve hundred, BCE cooking, of course, shifted as new tools were developed, including cooking plates, precursors. You could think of them to the modern day griddle and people started cooking their flat cakes on those instead of rocks. And sometimes they would even heat two iron plates and then press batter between them for fast and even cooking. So you can see how that's very much like a waffle just in a rudimentary kind of version.
I also like the part of history where we got the upgrade of going from cooking stuff on rocks to cooking stuff on the surface made for cooking. Yes.
And also that we were like, let's mush them together and see what that makes.
The first iteration of what would eventually evolve into what we would recognize as a waffle was called oblique. And these cakes were first seen in ancient Greece. And these obvious are sort of proto waffles because they were cooked in between two metal plates. They weren't really sweet. They were kind of like a flat, really simple cake. But the plates that were used to make them did often have designs on them. You can see pictures of some of these kind of lacy designs.
In some cases. Yeah, they're very pretty. I will say this, Obledo is an interesting word because you will just as often see it in relation to waffle history where the L and the E have been transposed. So it's like a rebellious. I think someone made that switch somewhere along the line, and it has propagated in both ways ever since. So if you're ever looking at a thing and it's different, that's why I went with the obvious version, because the next word that we're going to talk about seems like a pretty obvious transition from that word, which is ugly, which that word evolved into over time as these flat cake spread throughout other cultures in Europe.
And ugly is a French word. And that spread, that was in large part because the Catholic Church adopted these ugly as part of religious rituals and events. So to be clear, these were not a replacement for communion wafers, although the name arguably does mean wafers in French, but instead they were kind of another edible item that could be included in worship.
So often it was the finish to a meal with religious significance or they were served at the end of a religious service, usually were made by specialists called Loewer, who became experts using two metal plates to cook batter. And this batter was often made with flour, a little bit of salt and wine instead of water. Oobleck became established as a street food as these specialists would wait outside of churches to sell their wares to members of the congregation as they left, particularly on Saints Day, is another important religious days.
These again weren't sweets. They were savory jubilee, which were often pretty large in season with herbs. Sometimes they would be rolled into a cone shape to make them easier to carry home.
Yeah, I heard one description or read one description where they were talking about how they were big. They were like the size of a pizza. And I was like, I suppose they're probably in some ways a relative freight. It's a large, big thing that has some sprinkled on it. But of course, branching, branching trees. Again, there's no butter or syrup in sight here. These are still very simple in terms of ingredients.
And they were usually made with barley or oat flour. But the designs started to get really ornate in medieval Europe. Some of these designs mimicked sort of the patterns of stained glass, others recreated heraldry. And there were sometimes even more detailed scenes, such as landscapes or even depictions of biblical stories and the twelve hundreds.
We also start to see early hints of the waffle pattern developing the old French word, Warfalla referred to a piece of honeybee hive. And as these honeycomb pattern flat cakes started to become popular, they were called Ghofran. This is a French word for waffle that was derived from the old French waffly. And at this point in Europe, regardless of the design, waffles had to be held over a fire to be baked. So there was a degree of danger in their preparation.
The usage of the word waffle, we should note, also has roots in other languages. There's waffle in Dutch, which just has one F there's weapon, which means we've an old English and there is Vibha in old high German. You'll see all of those words sometimes noted as the the root word for waffle. But all of those languages are kind of being passed around and related. And as st veining of waffles in France became more competitive, things also got a bit contentious.
By the time King Charles, the ninth son of Catherine de Medici, was ruling in the late 1400's, this problem had escalated to such a degree that the monarch actually had to make business regulations to try to control the situation. I'm picturing fabulous wobblier and waffle fistfights. The main regulation that he came up with, coincidentally, was very similar to the social distancing rule we've been facing in pandemic. Vendors had to stay six feet apart.
The competitive nature of selling Giuffra was driven by this massive level of popularity. Of course, waffles crossed all socioeconomic lines, in part because they were so adaptable. The wealthiest levels of society enjoyed much flakier versions that were made with egg and sometimes even sweetened with honey. And then poorer classes had access to versions made with lesser quality flowers and water without any of the ingredients that would really make them into a crispy or fluffy delicacy.
North America was introduced to the Dutch waffles with one F thanks to colonists who immigrated in the early decades of the sixteen hundreds for expectations management here because I know people are already thinking it. Struve waffles were not invented yet. We're going to come back to that. But it does seem like at least some of these Dutch waffles were definitely intended to be sweet rather than savory. In the book Colonial Days in Old New York, written by Alice Morse Earl in 1896, there's a description of what the author calls a Dutch ouma from the 17th century, which was a sifter used to sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on freshly made waffles in 1725.
Robert Smith published the book.
Buckle up for this name caught kookery or the complete English cook containing the choicest and newest receipts for making soups, Portages fricasseed harshest farces, ragus, cutlasses, sauces, forced meats and sauces with various ways of dressing, most sorts of flesh, fish and fowl, wild and tame with the best methods of potting, collaring and pickling as likewise of pastes, pies, pasties, patties, puddings, Tansy's biscuits, creams, cheesecakes, Floran cakes, jellies, syllabub and Custard's also of candy, baking and preserving with a bill of fare for every month in the year and the latest improvements in cookery, pastry, etc.
That's a lot of words. This heavily titled tome, published in London, offers the first instance of the word waffle included in English language print, and the recipe that Smith included for waffles is as follows. Quote, Take flour, cream sack, nutmeg, sugar, eggs, yeast of what quantity? You will mix these to a batter and let them stand to rise, then add a little melted butter and bake one to try. If they burn, add more butter melt butter with sack, refined sugar and orange flour.
Water for the sauce sack in this instance refers to cooking sherry. If you had not heard that term before, I liked it. The solution to the I give you no measurements recipe if it doesn't work, is just keep adding butter.
Keep putting more butter in there. Yeah. So this base recipe has sugar. And while Smith's book also offers a really yummy sounding syrup recipe, waffles were also seen as a companion starch to savory entrees. So you might make a waffle and then ladle a stew on top of it, for example. I mean, I love a savory waffle, I eat that, yeah, nine years later in 1734, a recipe for a Dutch waffle in this case called a Dutch Wafer, appeared in a cookbook by Mary Kettle B.
. This book is titled A Collection of above 300 Receipt's in Cookery Physick and Surgery for the use of all good wives, tender mothers and careful nurses. And this recipe for what could be called the right Dutch wafer shows the difference in the Dutch style waffle of the time as being sweeter and says Take four eggs and beat them very well and then take a good spoonful of sugar.
One nutmeg grated a pint of cream and a pound of flour. A pound of butter melted two or three spoonfuls of rosewater and two good spoonfuls of yeast mix all well together and bake them and your wafer tongs on the fire for the sauce. Take grated cinnamon sack and melted butter sweetened to your taste. Delicious. We are going to talk more about waffle irons in a moment, which was mentioned in that recipe. But first, we are going to pause for a little sponsor break.
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Sometimes, you know, a couple of feet long, these irons would have been used in an open heart. So those long handles enabled the cook to fill the base plate with batter, shut the iron and then push it into the open flame for cooking without risking their person getting too close or up into the flame. And as kitchens transitioned to woodstoves, those handles became shorter and the waffle iron started to be placed on top of the stove to cook instead of directly into a fire.
The first waffle iron in the U.S. is often cited as arriving in 1789, thanks to Thomas Jefferson. He had been minister to France from 1785 up until he left in 1789. That being hastened by the start of the French Revolution. And he brought back two pieces of cooking tech from Europe. There was a pasta maker and a hinged, long handled waffle iron. However, this was not the first waffle iron to cross the Atlantic.
No, he gets credit and he may have caused a surge in popularity, but they were already waffle irons here. We know this because well before Jefferson is said to have brought his waffle iron to the states and in fact, before the colonies gained independence from England, waffle frolics were popular among the colonists in 1740 for what sounds like an especially frolich Laden and perhaps risque waffle frolic in New York was described in a letter by 21 year old William Livingston written to a Miss Etty and dated November 17th of that year.
Here's what it says. Quote, We had the waffle frolic at Miss Walton's talked of before your departure. The feast, as usual, was preceded by cards and the company so numerous that they filled two tables after a few games, a magnificent supper appeared in grand order and decorum. But for my part, I was not a little grieved that so luxurious of feast should come under the name of a waffle frolic. Because if this be the case, I must expect but a few waffle frolics for the future.
The frolic was closed up with ten sunbird virgins lately come from Columbus, Newfoundland. Besides a play of my own invention, which I have not room enough to describe at present, however, kissing constitutes a great part of its entertainment. Levingston, in case you don't recognize that name, went on to become the governor of New Jersey and was one of the signers of the U.S. Constitution. That mention of virgins from Columbus, Newfoundland, may be referring to indigenous women.
That, of course, as a potentially rather unpleasant layer to this story.
In sweeter developments, though, in the city of Gouta, Netherlands, the first Stroope waffles are made in the early eighteen hundreds. And if you have had these, you know, they are made to resemble breakfast waffles, but they're really kind of a cross between a waffle and a cookie. They're made of a dough that is pressed in an iron and the story goes that they were created. When a baker combines syrup and bread crumbs together and then pressed them into little waffle, cousins are normally either cooked or sliced to be very, very thin and then layered like a sandwich with a caramel syrup filling.
And they are delicious. On August 24th, 1869, the first waffle iron paten in the United States was issued, which is U.S. patent number ninety four thousand and forty three. It was granted to a man named Cornelius Swarthout. You'll see his name spelled a few different names. We're going with that one because I think it's the easiest to pronounce. And this was given for what he called an improvement on waffle irons that he developed in his home in Troy, New York.
So this iron had a very heavy bass with the bottom waffle textured plate mounted on it. And then another plate that sat on top affixed with a hinge so the waffle iron could open, have the batter poured in and then could flip. So each side, like within the the thing it could flip so that each side would get time close to the hot surface of the stove. And then a finished, evenly cooked waffle could be removed.
The main improvement that was made here was the inclusion of a handle and a clasp to make flipping the plates a lot safer and easier. You couldn't miss the plate line. There was less of a risk of burns. Swarthout described it like this. The nature of my invention consists in providing a handle connected with and forming part of a waffle iron, by means of which the same may be readily turned over without danger of slipping and without the possibility of burning the hand.
It also consists in providing a device by means of which the upper or a covering portion of a waffle iron may be raised so as to expose the interior for filling or for removing the waffle when done without the danger. Of the cover slipping back and without burning the hand, that description probably sounds a lot like a waffle iron you have used to or you might use today. And it really does look pretty familiar. But of course, Holmes did not have electricity in 1869 and this waffle iron still had to be placed on a heat source.
So as we said, it was intended to sit on a stovetop. And over the next several decades, this basic type of waffle iron worked so well and was so popular that it was widely produced for home use.
Waffle frolics or waffle parties had continued to be popular right through the 19th century and then into the 20th. And a 1987 book titled Suppers Novel Suggestions for Social Occasions. Author Paul Pierce lays out a detailed plan for hosting a perfect waffle party. And while this is billed as a perfect way to host a party for an apartment dweller without a big kitchen, it's really no simple affair at all.
No, there's so many steps and pierces perfect waffle. Party instructions start with some pretty involved invitations, quote, of creme white satin fashioned in the exact shape and size of a waffle section, padded with white cotton wadding and tacked to simulate the meeting place of the irons. They are then scorched the right color with a hot iron and on them is printed in sepia tints. Come and eat me. The date and address details are printed on the reverse.
I don't know why that struck me as it's a very involved invitation and also, again, a little risque.
By the way, this perfect party plan also includes the printing of a, quote, much praised recipe for waffles to be placed that each guest spots. And then the host assigns a utensil to each guest and they complete the recipe assembly line style as a team. And the guests are seated with teams of two pouring the batter and monitoring the cooking on a rotating basis, while other courses, including veal, are served the doors to the kitchen or to be propped open throughout all this so that the teams minding the waffle cooking in the kitchen do not feel left out.
It's a cute little instruction for how to make a fun party with waffles. I would do it. I'm not making those complex invites, though. I'm not quilting.
A bunch of Satyananda waffles of the first electrical waffle iron was produced in the early 1980s and it is believed that the simplex electrical company was the first to make one. This Boston, Massachusetts manufacturer created an iron that made circular waffles, but the unit itself was rectangular. It had a front row of plates that folded onto the back row to create the closed cooking surface. This in up sounds like it was not really a safe product. The regulations around electrical appliances that are in place today, for example, did not yet exist.
So like during the flipping, there were like electrical contacts that would be exposed. But we should say that Simplex did go on to make other safer models, though, and General Electric usually gets the credit for making the first electrical waffle iron, which the company did in 1911, designed by Thomas J. Stickybeak. But this was really a prototype. The company did not start production of waffle irons to sell for home use until the late 1980s.
Walthall popularity continued to grow in the U.S. in the early half of the 20th century, so much so that manufacturers started making waffle irons that were meant to be visually pleasing as well as functional, so they could be used right at the table and they would fit into the rest of the China and tableware and be just as pretty as anything else. Some of these had decorated porcelain exteriors and they were sold with breakfast sets that included coffee service as well as various specialized bowls to include batter.
You could pour that right into the iron by the person who was being served so you would get a fresh, hot waffle.
There were all kinds of interesting waffle developments from the 1930s on. We will talk about them after we hear from the sponsors who keep our show going.
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Happy mess on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcast. In nineteen thirty eight, well, supper club opened in Harlem, New York, and it catered to the musician crowd staying open late into the night, the story goes that because a lot of their clientele was getting there too late for dinner and too early for breakfast, the two meals found a crossover in fried chicken and waffles, which has since become popular around the country.
I will also say this. You will see it kind of casually referenced as something that developed as a like cast-off. Food for waffle parties were combined by people who were either enslaved or were working as a service staff in homes. But that's not really well documented. This, we know, definitely happened. Also, chicken and waffles, delicious.
In 1953, the first frozen waffles called truffles were introduced by three brothers. They were Tony Sam and Frank Dorsa. These frozen waffles were the third invention of the Dorsa brothers, and they had also created a mayonnaise and a dry waffle mix. And they were doing that under the name Igoe. Because of the egg content in the mayonnaise. Most people started calling the raffles by the name Ego's, which the Dawsons just adopted as the new product name. The egg company was bought by Kellogg's in the early 1970s and now produces a vast array of waffles and other frozen breakfast products and still go in.
The Belgian waffle might surprise you and how late it joins this story. In 1964 at the World's Fair in Queens, New York, Maury's for Mersch and his family set up a waffle booth in the Belgian village pavilion. Their booth signage, Red Brussels waffles, a Belgium product that's B.L. DGM for Martius waffles were light and fluffy, crisp on the outside, and then they would melt in your mouth. Visitors to the expo could buy them plain or with a little bit of whipped cream and fresh strawberry slices.
This was actually not their real introduction. Remerge had sold them at a smaller booth at the Seattle World's Fair two years earlier to kind of test the waters. But this trip took off in New York. And so that's usually noted as the birth of the Belgian waffles popularity.
To most of the customers, this pastry was just a revelation. The waffles that were normally served in the US were a lot heavier. They tended to be topped with a bunch of syrup and butter charging a dollar per waffle. The versions needed to keep two dozen waffle irons going and have ten people come to help them slice strawberries just to keep up with the orders. Yeah, it's one of those things that gets listed as like one of the most popular things at the World's Fair that year.
Maury's remerged did notice, however, that a lot of people didn't understand why they were called Brussels waffles. They didn't really get that. His version of Waffles was a family recipe developed from a regional style in Belgium. So he just started calling them Belgian waffles. And that was easy to understand and caught on with customers over time. The Belgian waffle, which he did not keep control of as a name, evolved to be more like the waffles that U.S. customers had already been eating.
And it got farther and farther away from this handheld street food that Vermeer had sold. Today, a Belgian waffle has deep, deep pockets in its waffle texture to hold a lot of butter and toppings. And it's a huge departure from the idea that they're supposed to be so delicious and simple on their own. But they need few, if any accouterment. You would be hard pressed to carry most restaurant dishes that are described as Belgian waffles around with you as you walk.
Yeah, keep in mind, they're actually supposed to be a hand-held food. There is, we should mention, another popular type of waffle that hails from Belgium. It is a very different texture and flavor. This is the Lega and it's named after Lega Belgium. A Lega is denser and chewier. And this version of a waffle, according to legend, has been around since the Middle Ages, though it's only been documented since the early 19th century. They are made with Pearl Sugar, which comes in these dense clumps and they don't dissolve into the batter.
Instead, pieces of pearl sugar caramelize into sweet bits throughout the waffle waffles have also inspired innovation in non gastronomic areas.
When Bill Bowerman, who was a track coach at the University of Oregon, applied for a patent for a shoe where the, quote, soul has short multisided polygon shaped studs which provide gripping edges that give greatly improves traction, it used a waffle iron to cast the textured soul. This gave birth to the Nike Company, and that's true as part of the collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. You can also find it online if you just search Nike waffle trainer now in the U.S..
August 24th is National Waffle Day. That is the day that Cornelius Swarthout was granted his patent International Waffle Day is March 25th. And if that's not enough waffle holiday action, you can also celebrate National Waffle Iron Day on June 29th.
And of course, there's a whole world of pastries that share culinary DNA with waffles that we have not even touched on here, like the Italian bertelli or the Middle Eastern Jalabi. And both of those are deep fried. There's also Irish style waffles, which have a really crispy texture and Korean style, which are really heavy on the dessert type toppings. Also a range of savory waffles to really match any palate or preference. Also some things that have nothing to do with waffles that people describe as sort of insert nationality here, waffle like okonomiyaki, which is just not a thing that's like a waffle in any way.
But sometimes people call them Japanese waffles, right? Yeah, yeah. Waffles are international and have been adapted in a million different ways.
They're also like super fun, different ways that restaurants and chefs like to make their own twist on waffles. Yeah, I want to host a waffle. Frolich, I did have a funny thing where I was doing Google searches for a waffle. Frolich And there's apparently a restaurant in Ithaca named Waffle. Frolich Yep. Which I would love to go to you just for the name.
When you when you mentioned Waffle Frolich to me while you were working on this, I kind of went down a whole waffle frolich rabbit hole because I was like, you know, slang changes over time. Yeah. And it's like if I read a whole book series that was set in the 1920s and there was slang in it that I had never heard before at all.
And I was like, does this mean something different than we listen? After all of those risque hints? I started to wonder if Waffle Frelich wasn't code, but but it sounds like just a delicious party. I have a listener mail, which I can draw a dotted line to relate it to waffles. It's about dogs.
But I will tell you that in my house growing up where my parents bred dogs for a while, the dogs got pancakes on Sunday right along with us night fresh off the griddle.
So it's kind of related. But this is from our listener, Ellen, who writes, Hi, Ali and Tracy. I had a laugh today on my drive home while listening to the listener mail responses at the end of the Marea on a Mozart podcast. I have, of course, heard that black cats are the least popular to adopt, but I've heard differently about the unpopular color of dogs. We adopted a Chihuahua mix a couple of years ago, and the rescue foundation we got her from informed us that she was in fact least popular color of dogs to be rescued.
Her name is Peko and she's beige or more accurately, tan. But beige sounds fancier somehow. My boyfriend and I are big believers in pet adoption. We also have a black cat named Bit and just last week took in a barn kitten who we have named Nano. I've attached pictures, of course, and I hope they brought in your day. Stay strong through covid. Thank you for providing some entertainment for the masses, Ellen.
Yeah, I had not ever heard that Basch dogs are going to have a lower adoption rate.
I don't, I don't know I, I think all the dogs should get adopted, but that's a hard pill to fill. I understand. And also just yay for adopting or rescuing animals.
It makes me so happy to hear that all of these creatures are in a home that loves them and sends adorable pictures of them.
That cat is beautiful. We all know and frankly, this dog is super, super cute. So, Pekoe, I don't know what held you up, but I'm glad you landed where you did.
If you would like to write to us, you can do so. Please send pictures of your dogs and kitties. We love them. You can do that at History podcast it. I hurt rediff.com. You can also find us pretty much everywhere on social media as missed in history. And if you'd like to subscribe, you can do that on the radio app, at Apple podcast or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.
Stuff you missed in history class is the production of I Heart Radio for more podcasts for My Heart radio visit by her radio app Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows. You probably heard a lot about Portland on the news about the tear gas and the federal agents with snatch vans and the the anarchy, what you probably haven't heard is the truth, because the reality of what happened in Portland is so much stranger, so much more incredible than what the mainstream media was willing to show.
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