Childhood food memories 1: waffles

Growing up, my parents often made waffles on Saturday mornings – Sunday mornings were reserved for doughnuts at the zoo. I don’t know if it was Mom or Dad who made the batter; I know I did at least a few times because I followed the  “Oh Boy Waffles” recipe from the Fannie Farmer cookbook. The page was easy to find because it was the only batter-spattered one.

But I do remember that Dad was the only one to cook the waffles. They had one waffle iron, the standard ten-inch round divided into four sections. With our family of six he had to be creative in who got served first. We developed a system to describe how much waffle we wanted in terms of time. My sister I started off splitting the first waffle with a half hour each. Then Mom usually had 15 minutes and one of the boys, little then and more interested in running around, would join the table for the other 45. The waffles would come out faster by now, the last brother would join the table, and we kids would call call out things like, “another 15 minutes please” and “I’m starving, can I have another hour.” Eventually we had our fill and wandered away from the table – I’m not certain we ever helped clean up, or thanked him for a delicious breakfast. Dad always ate last, alone at the table by now (thankfully, I imagine). He would sit down and enjoy an entire hour.

I thought this was all very normal at the time, but over the years I’ve never met anyone else who described sections of a waffle in terms of parts of an hour. And surprisingly, despite the weekly waffles and the novelty of describing them, this isn’t a tradition that translated into the way I cook for my own family. Over the years I’ve made lots of things from scratch – pizzas, pasta dough, refried beans and barbeque sauce (but not to eat togther), pancakes, French toast – but the only waffles in our house were the Eggo frozen kind. One day I was looking around the kitchen and said to the boys, “Hey guys -we should get a waffle iron so I can make you homemade waffles.” Kid One looked at me strangely and replied, “NO, mom.”

Then we watched Alton Brown’s Good Eats, the episode in which he teaches an imaginary Guy how to make a respectable diner breakfast. He cooked bacon in the waffle iron BEFORE making the waffles. This was too tempting so I went out and bought my first waffle iron, (surprised to discover how inexpensive they are!).

We tried the waffle-iron-bacon-grilling technique a few times, using center-cut bacon to reduce grease. The bacon cooked quickly, was nicely crisp, and had a really cool pattern. But trying to drain the grease as you go was a hot and ineffective task, and waffles cooked in the bacon-greased iron had burned bacon bits on the outside. We also tried laying strips of cooked bacon on top of the waffle batter to make bacon waffles, but that hasn’t been successful either. The bacon seems to make the top half of the iron stick to the cooked batter. Then Kid Two had the idea to make waffles out of cornbread batter. The first few were overcooked but once I got the hang of the timing were pretty good. I’m not sure that we’ve tried straight waffles yet, but really, we still haven’t gotten into the waffle-making habit. Their childhood waffle memories will be dramatically different from mine.

Now I have an inexpensive waffle iron with permanent traces of bacon grease wrapped in a plastic bag in the fridge so it doesn’t get moldy or draw flies. I may be the only person you’ve heard of to do this.

And I know it’s late, but thanks Dad, for all those great waffle breakfasts. Sorry, Mom, for not cleaning up more often.

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