On this day in 1869, Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, N.Y. patented his invention, the stove-top waffle iron. While waffles irons of sorts have existed since the 1300s, Swarthout intended to perfect the design by adding a handle and a clasp that would allow the waffle-maker to flip the iron without danger of slippage or burns. It wasn’t until 1911 that General Electric put out the first electric waffle iron, the prototype for the counter-top versions used in many households today.
Traditionally, waffles are a breakfast or dessert item in the United States, served with confectioner’s sugar, syrup, fruit, or chocolate. Waffles are also served in savory dishes, such as fried chicken and waffles.
While American and Belgian waffles are the most popular in the United States, other countries have their own concepts, such as the Dutch stroopwafel (literally “syrup waffle”: syrup sandwiched between two thin wafers). The Scandinavian style waffle is heart shaped and often topped with various cheeses or cream and jam. Residents of Hong Kong eat large, round waffles called “grid cakes” that are spread with butter, peanut butter, and sugar.
Back in the home of the waffle iron, Troy, N.Y., Brown’s Brewing Co. is putting their own twist on waffles for Waffle Week (Aug. 23-27). Brown’s is serving up entrees that feature waffles made with homemade beer, drawing inspiration from what Brown’s Vice President Gregg Stacy calls, “some of the greatest wafflers of their time.” These include such flip-floppers as Sen. Joe Lieberman, Brett Favre, and Benedict Arnold, to name a few.
If you can’t make it out to Troy this week, though, that’s all right. Making waffles in the comfort of your own kitchen is extraordinarily easy, thanks to Cornelius Swarthout and his patented waffle iron. And don’t be afraid to get creative!
—Risa Seidman, Libraries Intern
Dinner roles: American women and culinary culture. Sherrie A. Inness.