Have you ever wondered where do waffles come from? It seems as if these sweet treats have always been a part of our lives, but if you saw them before the 13th century you wouldn’t recognize them. In fact, they had savory toppings until the 18th century.
Waffles in Ancient Times
That’s right. Waffles used to be flat, savory wafers called obleios in Ancient Greece. Vendors would sell them flat or rolled into tubes. It wasn’t until the 13th century that a talented, Mediterranean craftsman came up with the idea of hinged plates in the shape of a honeycomb. Similar to the modern pizzelle, the first waffle iron had wooden handles and was cooked over a fire.
As the centuries passed, vendors all over Europe sold these from their carts. In fact, there were so many vendors that a law was passed to keep them at least six feet away from each other.
Fast forward to 1620 when the Pilgrims came into contact with them in Holland before leaving for America. As you can guess, waffles were on the Mayflower too.
Waffles Come to America
In 1789 Thomas Jefferson brought back exotic and amazing items from his travels in Europe. He brought back a waffle iron and threw waffle parties called “frolics.” This is when sweet toppings, like maple syrup and molasses were introduced, although savory toppings were still popular. It’s not surprising that waffles became all the rage in America, bringing people together in the same way as today’s wine, cheese, olive oil, etc types of parties.
A Waffle Patent
Finally, in 1869, a Dutch-American named Cornelius Swarthout received a patent for the waffle iron. This happened on August 24th, which explains why National Waffle Day is celebrated on its anniversary here in America.
The Modern Waffle as We Know It
In 1964, Maurice Vermesch sold his wife’s recipe for Brussels waffles at the New York World Fair. These waffles were twice the height of Swarthout’s waffles; they were made with yeast and were topped with strawberries and thick, whipped cream. However, he discovered that most Americans didn’t know the location of Brussels, so he changed the name to Belgium waffles.
Of course, that’s not to say that waffles didn’t exist in Belgium. They did. Each area of the country had its own version. Recipes were closely guarded, and each family passed the recipes from generation to generation.
So this explains why we have Belgium waffles and regular waffles. The Belgium version is double the height, made with or without yeast. Usually their shape is rounded, while regular waffles are most often square shaped.
And while the popularity of sweet toppings is well known, there are many who enjoy the savory version as well. If you’re a fan of chicken and waffles, you can have both the sweet and the savory together.
No matter the version you prefer, the next time you bite into that little slice of heaven just remember that you are taking part in history. We owe many people thanks for bringing it all the way from Europe and for the improvements along the way.