The Surprising History of Waffles
As I was happily chowing down on my waffles with walnuts, chocolate chips, and whipped cream, a question hit me…
Who invented waffles? Where did it come from? What is its history?
As soon as the thought hit me, I was wide awake. I really wanted to know the answer.
After a lot of research, I’ve found my answers. And boy is it surprising!
I mean, did you know waffles used to be called obelios? Or that it was eaten for religious purposes in the middle ages?
Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll start from the very beginning…
Waffle lovers and curious people out there, get ready for a wild ride into waffle town (or should I say waffle history)!
The Origin of Waffles
It’s not clear when the first “waffle” came about. But food historians (yes, that’s a real job!) traced it all the way back to ancient Greece.
That long ago!
In those times, the waffles we love so much weren’t exactly sweet and tasty. In fact, the only ingredients were flour and water (and sometimes a little sugar).
Also, it wasn’t called waffles. The ancient Greeks called it obelios, which translates to “wafers”.
The biggest similarity between the ancient Greece waffles (or obelios) and the waffles today is how it’s cooked.
These Greek “cakes” were cooked between two hot metal plates attached to a long, wooden handle. It doesn’t sound much different than how we cook our waffles in a waffle iron nowadays.
So that’s the humble beginning of one of our favorite breakfast foods.
Waffles and Religion
A breakthrough for the waffle came when the Catholic Church used it as communion to depict Jesus and His crucifixion. This was during the Medieval European times.
Since waffles symbolized blessings, you can guess that it became pretty popular.
At one point it became so popular and in demand, that the church had to hire artisans to cook the waffles in specially made waffle irons.
These artisans went far and beyond. They were the ones who introduced waffle designs. As well as adding more flavor, such as honey, butter, cream, and spices.
We should be thankful for these moments in history for creating the waffles we know now!
Waffles and It’s Famous “Grid” Design
Okay, I’m sure you’re all wondering (as I have) how the waffle got its grid design.
The funny thing is, it’s quite random.
By the 18th Century, waffles became a snack eaten between meals. A lot of European countries were coming up with their own waffle design and flavor.
It was that time that leaven was added to make the waffle thicker. Coincidently, that was also the time the Dutch invented deep, grid pattern plates on cast iron plates.
This paved the way for the Belgian waffle with deep grids that we know and love today.
It was also around this time that the Italians invented the Pizzelle cookie, which is also a type of waffle.
With those two new inventions, it made sense to use the gridded plates to thoroughly cook the thick batter. The grid design was just the aftermath.
Today, the grid design on a waffle maker is what makes a waffle a waffle.
It was not until the Brussels waffles reached America that its popularity exploded. This was due to the creation of the first stovetop waffle iron by Cornelius Swarthout from New York state.
On August 24, 1869, Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York patented the first waffle iron.
This meant that for the first time ever, these treats could be made at home with a waffle iron bought from a store!
This also paved the way for the National Waffle Day in the United States. That’s right, on August 24th of every year, we have a National Waffle Day in which we celebrate the creation of the waffle maker.
In the United States, waffles became a common breakfast food, but in Europe, they stayed a snack food to be bought from street vendors as a quick on the go meal.
Although Belgian waffles were a snack food sold by street vendors in Europe, it came to the US during the world’s fair in 1964 with the first Belgian waffle iron available for customer purchase.
Over the years, we’ve come up with lots of different waffle pairings like chocolate chips, whipped cream, maple syrup, honey, and even chicken and waffles!
We even invented frozen waffles that can be stored for months and cooked right up on an electric waffle iron.
America isn’t the only one with waffles. The French have their “gaufres” made from cloves. The Germans their coffee waffles. The Spanish their waffles with wine and lemon zest. Not to mention Belgian waffles and the Italian pizzelle.
I have to say, after learning all that, I have a deeper appreciation for waffles (if that’s even possible). I hope you do, too.
It’s so interesting to see how it started as a bland cake, then a church communion, until finally, a delicious breakfast!
And not only that, but we’ve developed recipes that allow you to enjoy Belgium waffles, sweet waffles, or savory.
Buy yourself one of the best waffle irons you can afford and make every day Waffle Day!
So there you have it. That was your waffle fact of the day. 😆