Happy Shiny Waffles

So here’s the thing about me and waffles: I love them. I dislike the sweet dessert-for-breakfast “Belgium” waffles that are ubiquitous now.

Those fake waffles are nothing like the dark, crisp, thin version my mother made on occasional Sunday afternoons, after church.

There were not too many magical memories from my childhood and “magical” might be too far a stretch, but Sunday mornings were kind of my version of them. The brunch we had after church and before my father’s inevitable Sunday night funk set in were possibly the best meals in our house. While bitter discord, bickering, or worse, were too often the unwanted guest at our weeknight dinner table, Sunday afternoons were different.

Perhaps it was the fresh from church, fresh from atonement, hopefulness. Perhaps it was the fact that we often got special treats like the occasional stop at DQ. Maybe it’s a case of bacon making it better. Bacon or maybe something weird and wonderful like fried Taylor Pork roll sandwiches, were often a part of these meals. For me, waffles were part of the Sunday morning-into-afternoon ritual.

I remember my Mom’s waffle iron - she probably still has it today. It was older than I was, or close. The older I got the more I appreciated that appliances could last like that. It was shining stainless steel on the outside, with a brown cloth-covered cord and a little red-orange ready light. The mixing bowl for our waffles was a huge battered yellow Tupperware bowl. I think we usually had Bisquik wafffles and I doubt our syrup had ever even been close to a maple tree. Nonetheless, to have a meal in peace, and to have a crispy, savory treat was a welcome respite from the week. In my memory, these Sunday lunches are imbued with a fresh hopefulness like the air in the first mornings of Spring. Of course, that’s a ridiculous rewrite of history, but you get the point. It’s a happy memory, so few are these, I believe I’ve earned a little poetic license.

Then maybe it’s unfair to compare the insipid, pale, often soggy “Belgium” waffles to these waffles of my buffed-up childhood memories. They really never had a chance, did they? And can we get the terminology right? Shouldn’t it be “Belgian” waffles - as in the kind they eat in Belgium? Calling them “Belgium” waffles is like calling something “France wine” instead of French. Makes me slightly crazy. While we’re on the topic, it’s “Iced” coffee people, as in coffee that has been iced or chilled. “Ice Coffee” would be coffee made from ice, which makes no sense at all. But I digress.

Belgian waffles (has anyone in Belgium has ever seen a thing like this?) are an abomination. Whipped cream, fruit, syrup, ice cream, all manner of dessert toppings are served on something that’s meant to be for breakfast, not dessert. No, they simply won’t do.

The waffles of my dreams (and by now you realize this is nearing psychedelic-flashback territory), the proper waffles are dark golden brown, crisp and served with butter melting into the square holes, preferably with a sunny side egg on top, maybe a salty pork product nearby and real maple syrup.

Recently, I was helping a friend move and I unpacked a waffle iron, circa 1970 or thereabouts. You know the era. When no one worried if an appliance were just as likely to issue a third-degree burn as make your food. Think Bluth family corn-dogger. Think Oster “Gold n Crispy” waffle iron. Imagine any of your mother’s ancient appliances, none of which would pass risk-management quality control today. My eyes went wide.

Being a good friend, and recognizing the opportunity to both make me happy and divest herself of one more thing to store, my friend immediately gifted me with this waffle iron. Yes, of course it makes regular, not Belgium waffles. You had to ask? Back in the 70’s we didn’t know from Belgium! So thanks to this gift, I get to make real waffles, something I’ve longed for since the diners of my college days. Most diners now, if you can find one, have gone the route of Denny’s and serve the dreaded Belgian-style. No, thanks to this gift, I get to make waffles of my childhood Sundays.

As anyone who has had the proper dose of 50-minute hours can tell you, food can trigger powerful memories. How you read those memories and what you do with them is a small measure of accomplishment. For me, it’s enough to simply enjoy a good waffle, be thankful for the gift of the waffle iron and to remember that not all my meals were fraught. Sundays were often imprinted with a waffle-patterned perfection, at least that’s how I choose to remember them.

Me and My Waffles

Now in possession of a proper waffle iron and delving back into baking, I have found that culling my sourdough starter leaves me with a cup of perfectly good starter I’m meant to discard. Food waste was always a big no-no and could be the source of all-night stand offs at dinner. Having grown up poor, wasting food was in my parents’ eyes akin to killing babies or something equally horrific. It simply was not done.

So this “tossing the cup of culled starter” routine is a bit of a drawback for me in the sourdough maintenance ritual. I’m happy to have found a recipe for sourdough pancakes and waffles. It calls for one cup of culled sourdough starter. Hooray!

I’ve modified the recipe slightly by subbing in a half cup of organic Spring wheat pastry flour for white flour, ground flax seed and wheat germ, and subbing grapeseed oil for melted butter. I make a whole batch and freeze them once cooled in my inverted V-rack to maintain crispy-ness. Pop the batch into a zip top bag and into the freezer and I can toast myself a waffle snack for anytime the muse hits and there’s no time to cook. I find they’re so tasty I don’t even need butter and syrup. I enjoy them like you would a big old rice cake. But who has childhood stories of rice cakes?

These are the waffles in my inverted V rack. It lets them cool down without getting soggy. Then they go into the freezer.

Happy Shiny Pancakes of Days Past (sort of) - I'll share my recipe and a cup of starter to get you going if like - drop me an email or a comment and let me know if you're a pancake or a waffle person? Belgian or Regular?