Waffle House

Sunday, March 29, 2020

When my brother’s girls were little he would make waffles for them on weekend mornings. Every time I’d visit and we’d be having breakfast, he’d tell me how great it was to make waffles, how much the girls loved them, how great they were. He would go on and on about it. Every time. He’d tell me I needed to get  waffle maker. Homemade waffles are great. You should get a waffle maker.

I’d nod my head and agree. Yes, waffles are great.

(My mother’s mother, our Grandma Evelyn, used to make waffles for us for dinner when we’d stay over at her apartment when we were young. She died when we were still in elementary school, I was 9 and my brother was 10, so our memories of her are limited.  But that is a strong memory for both of us, having waffles for dinner with our Grandma Evelyn. Maybe that’s why he liked making waffles for his daughters so much.)

While I was nodding my head and agreeing about waffles being great, I was thinking about how the chances of me going out and getting a waffle maker were zero. I live by myself. Making waffles for myself was just not on the list of things I needed to do. And anyway, I live in North Carolina. If I want waffles, I can go to Waffle House.

Never once, in all those years he was telling me I should make waffles, did I find myself thinking, Gee I wish I had a waffle iron so I could make waffles right now.

Then at some point in the past year or two (the last two years of my life is just one  giant glob of time that can’t be separated into individual units … I have no idea when any of this happened or how much time elapsed between all of these steps), my friend Sara brought some stuff in to donate to The Scrap Exchange. Included in the donation pile was a waffle iron that she had intercepted from a mutual friend’s donation pile but then decided she didn’t want to keep. (I don’t remember the specifics but I think she had one, but she thought this one would be better, but it turned out it wasn’t better, so she brought it in to donate. Or something like that.)

She asked if I wanted it.

Now, a waffle iron wasn’t something I was about to go out and buy, but if someone was standing right in front of me with a nice vintage waffle iron, right there in my office, it seemed like I should take it. If it turned out I didn’t use it or it cluttered up my kitchen or whatever, I could always complete the donation cycle and finally get it to land at The Scrap Exchange. So I said I would take it.

The nice vintage waffle iron sat in my office for a bit then I moved it to my car and it stayed in my car for a bit then I finally got it into the house, where it probably sat in the living room for a few weeks/months, until eventually I found a permanent home for it in the kitchen cupboard.

And then, finally, one day, I made waffles for myself. (I don’t remember what inspired this but I think the first time I made them it was for dinner. Maybe I was channeling my Grandma Evelyn.)

They were good. But the recipe I used — the Everyday Waffle recipe from the plaid Better Homes & Gardens cookbook — made a lot, and also I put way too much batter in the waffle iron, it oozed all out the sides and made a big mess.

[SIDE NOTE: For anyone reading this who hasn’t made waffles before and is about to, you ladle a small amount of batter into the middle of the waffle iron and it flows out to the edges; when you put the top down it squeezes it all through the little channels. You don’t put a bunch of batter all over the waffle iron. After I did it, that seemed perfectly obvious, but it didn’t occur to me when I was putting the batter in for the first batch. Live and learn. And clean up the mess as you go!]

I made them again a few weeks/months later. The second round was better. I figured out how much to put on to the waffle iron without making a mess, I ate the ones I made fresh out of the waffle iron instead of making them all and then eating some (they are better hot because they are crisp; if you let them sit, they wilt from the steam), and I put the leftovers in the fridge and ate them later. They were pretty good left over. Not as good as they were hot off the iron, but good enough, with some strawberry jam on them.

So … they were definitely good, but because I haven’t made them much, they take a fair amount of mental energy; I have to think about the steps involved and make sure I’m doing them right, and also it takes a bit of time to mix up the batter then cook them all, and the recipe used kind of a lot of milk and it made way more waffles than I actually needed, so it felt wasteful. And you are supposed to separate the eggs and beat the whites separately but that just felt like SO MUCH WORK that I just mixed the egg in together. Lazy person’s waffles. So I wasn’t even doing it right and it still felt like too much work.

So, after actually getting a waffle iron and making waffles, it turned out that making waffles is something that I thought about fairly often but rarely did. Just about every Sunday when I wake up and think about what my day looks like, I think about making waffles. But then I don’t make them. It seems like a good idea when I’m lying in bed pondering my day, but once I’m up and doing things, it just seems like too much trouble. I end up making something else, something easier.

Until … pandemic!

Because what else do I have to do with myself but beat egg whites stiff and cook up the country ham slices that had been in the fridge for a month or two (exp. date July 2020 … still good!) and make some fresh hot crisp tasty waffles. And eat waffles and maple syrup and country ham. Sweet & salty & delicious.

Yum!

So if any of you out there are trying to figure out what to eat, and you have a waffle iron that you never use because it just feels like too much trouble, now is the time. Now is the time to make yourself some waffles.

Here is the recipe I used, which is half of the original Better Homes & Gardens cookbook recipe. (For today’s batch, I used self-rising flour, which already has the baking powder and salt mixed in with it, which I bought it by mistake and used it like it was regular flour in any number of recipes until I finally noticed the label and started using it properly.)

PANDEMIC EVERY DAY BUTTERMILK WAFFLES

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp white flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sour milk or buttermilk [I used 1 Tbsp vinegar + sweet milk to make 1 cup]
  • 1 beaten egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter (or melted shortening or neutral tasting oil)
  • 1 stiffly beaten egg white

Sift together dry ingredients. Combine milk, egg yolk, and oil; stir to combine; then stir into dry ingredients. Fold in whites (“leaving a few fluffs,” as the cookbook tells us.)

The full recipe says it makes three 10-inch waffles. I made smaller ones, and think I made four waffles, three of which were immediately devoured and the last put in the fridge to be eaten later in the week, with strawberry jam.

 

I do hope that everyone is well and healthy during this time, and staying safe, and being creative in thinking about ways to spend your time and energy.

If anyone is wondering what’s going on in my life, I will tell you that a new Executive Director came on at The Scrap Exchange in May 2019 and my job switched from finance to operations while we tried to work through some major bottlenecks (most of which we were able to get through by the end of the year). In January, I asked to cut my hours down to 10-20 hours a week for three months to try to recover from the last two years of dramafest, and then we could revisit at the end of that time period to see where things were at. I was nearing the end of the three months when our two stores shut down and all of the staff, including me, were furloughed.

So now I’m in a weird in-between state, with no responsibilities, and not even really able to think about what I might do eventually, or when I might want to do it, because the whole world feels like it’s in a state of suspended animation. And I know people are suffering, and I don’t want to minimize that or be flippant about it, but I’ve really been enjoying myself. My normal state is one of social isolation, so this hardly feels any different — except of course that I don’t have a job. Which in some ways is worrisome, no job means no money, but in other ways is such a huge relief. Because I don’t have to think at all about this place that I spent the last ten years of my life spending so much time and energy worrying about and trying to make work. It is someone else’s problem now.

I’m sure I will start to go crazy at some point but I’m not even close to that yet, it just has been feeling really good to not have to think about anything and for once in my life to not have to think about what I should be doing. Because there’s nothing I can do, whatever I’m doing is what I should be doing.

I’ve stopped listening to the news and I don’t have a TV so that eliminates some major sources of anxiety. I’m still reading the paper but I can be selective about that. I’m strictly limiting my use of the internet. I’ve mostly been reading books (published a minimum of 10 years ago), and listening to previously downloaded podcasts, and watching DVDs on my computer. And trying to get through all the things in my house that I spent the last 2+ years ignoring. Just getting through that should keep me busy for months.

And then after that, who knows. There’s always waffles.

6 Responses to “Waffle House”


  1. Does it really make a difference to beat the whites separately? I’m always too lazy to do that! And you can freeze any leftovers; they re-crisp up a bit if you heat them on a trivet in a frying pan, but be careful not to get the pan hot enough to cause damage to it.

    You can preheat the pan with a bit of water in it, but don’t leave it in there while you re-heat the waffle. But it helps to get the pan good and hot without damaging the pan from overheating.

    A good heavy cast iron pan is perfect. If you’re careful, you can re-heat directly in the pan, but it takes a lot of monitoring, and I always forget that part!

    At the very least, you can put a bit of foil down on the pan and then put the waffle on it to re-warm, but it isn’t foolproof.

    If you wrinkle the foil up a bit, that helps keep the surface of the waffle from touching the pan directly. Handy if you don’t have any kind of a useful trivet.

    If you have a toaster oven (I don’t), then that might work, but again – must watch it like a hawk.

    Virtual hugs,

    Judie

  2. Lorrie Harder Says:

    You can put leftover waffles back in the waffle maker to reheat them They crisp up beautifully. Just make sure you fit the waffle in the right grooves! My recipe does not call for buttermilk or for beating the egg whites separately. They come out light and fluffy every time. I do use my immersion blender to mix the oil eggs and milk which helps to lighten the batter. Happy waffling!

  3. Ellison Says:

    I miss you! No waffles here but we told Sam he needed to start learning to cook and this was a great time. So he’s learned to make pancakes (which he has a new appreciation for), brownies, chocolate chip cookies and pound cakes. Not exactly what I was thinking but tonight he’s making dinner of some kind. Should be interesting.

  4. lessisenough Says:

    @judie

    Thanks for the reheating tips! I do have a toster oven, I was actually wondering if putting a leftover in to toast for a bit might turn out okay. It seems like the main thing is to get some of the water out, and that’s what a toaster does to bread.

    I will post a folow-up comment on how the reheating goes.

  5. lessisenough Says:

    @lorrieharder

    Well now that I have conquered my aversion to waffle making and have the technique down I can try out some other recipes. I’ve read that the best waffle is Marion Cunningham’s yeasted waffle but you have to plan that one ahead (I think you have to do it the night before and let it sit overnight) so that seemed way too involved, but at this point it seems like the more involved the better.

    Reheating them in the waffle iron seems tricky but maybe I’ll try it.

  6. lessisenough Says:

    @ellison

    Haha, well it seems like dessert is as good a place to start as anywhere!

    I decided to set a rule that I can’t make a new sweet until all of the previous sweet has been eaten. In one of my $50 pandemic shopping sprees I bought brownie mix and last week I really wanted to make it, but I had made a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies that I hadn’t finished yet. I decided that the last thing I need is a vast array of sweets to choose from, so I needed to eat cookies for dessert until they were gone and then I could make something else. I have one cookie left. I may make the brownies or I might see what else looks good in the Dorie Greenspan baking cookbooks I have here. Every time I look through those I want to make everything in them.

    Hope Sam’s dinner is good. Or edible at least!


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