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Welcome to Wiser Now’s weekly email blast which reflects my eclectic interests and, I hope, yours. Waffle Week begins the first full week in September, this year September 6. My love affair with waffles began the summer after my sophomore year in college which I spent as a chambermaid at a large hotel in Brussels. Every afternoon I would stop at the street vendor selling warm gaufres, a thick, sticky, handheld waffle covered in caramelized sugar that brightened all those rainy Belgian days. Sometimes I got them free in exchange for the American stamps he collected. Ahhh, sweet memories!

I hope you are finding these offerings fun, and perhaps even useful, and I welcome your feedback. (Kathy@WiserNow.com) And if you haven’t yet pressed the subscribe button so this newsletter doesn’t go to spam, please do so now.

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The Quirky Quote
"You should eat a waffle! You can't be sad if you eat a waffle!"
~ Lauren Myracle

The Quirky Fact

Today when people are asked to think of waffles, I suspect one of two memories most often arise: 1) Belgian waffles as they were defined at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York (thick, but light waffle dough covered in whipped cream and fresh strawberries) or the black and yellow sign signifying a Waffle House where a more traditional version swimming in butter and syrup is served.

If it’s the latter, according to this article, that was intentional: “When Waffle House was founded, the most expensive item on its 16-item menu was the waffle. Founders Joe Rogers and Tom Forkner named the restaurant after their biggest moneymaker in the hopes of inspiring guests to order more waffles.” A secondary reason was to get customers to sit down and linger.  "You can't carry out waffles," Rogers explained to reporters from NBC News. "They get pretty flimsy. So we thought, 'Waffle House'll work."' (Obviously, they hadn’t met any Belgian street vendors.)
   

The Quirky Observation

A waffle is a delicious treat derived from the Dutch word for honeycomb. (Some sources say “to weave,” which is still about the pattern.) The French word gaufre, essentially the same delicious treat, comes from a word for stamping with a patterned tool. But the Old English verb “to waffle” originally meant “to yelp," possibly in imitation of dogs, then evolved to “talk foolishly" and eventually to today’s meaning of "to vacillate, to change, to equivocate or flipflop."  Too bad. Both ought to be something good.


The Question
Reminisce about favorite breakfast pleasures and places. What memories make your mouth water and take your mind to a happy place?


The Quiz 
Historians seem to agree that the origins of the waffle can be traced to ancient Greece when cooks roasted flat, bland-tasting cakes called obelios between two metal plates attached to a long wooden handle. Centuries later in Medieval Europe the metal plates were designed to depict biblical scenes and religious symbols, and these still bland, unleavened wafers became a sort of companion to (not a replacement of) the communion wafers used in Roman Catholic churches. According to this article, “They were often served after meals as a symbolic final blessing.” The iron plates eventually also depicted family crests, landscapes, and other non-religious scenes, and the cheap and easy to make recipe became a household staple. Can you take it from there?
  1. On Pentecost, French churches would order thousands of (what they called) oublies from the local guild of oubliers, so that when the clergy read the Biblical passage describing the apostles receiving the Holy Spirit from heaven, monks perched in the church rafters could rain down oublies as a surprise treat for churchgoers.
             True ___       False ___
     
  2. It is human nature to embellish the ordinary. Over the years, knights returning from the Crusades and explorers from travels brought spices like cinnamon and ginger. The wealthy added sugar, cream, honey, and butter. Wafers became thicker with leavening agents and irons became deeper. Waffles began to look more like what we know today.
              True ___      False ___
  3. By the late fifteenth century, Parisian street oublie salesmen had expanded their business by being welcomed into private houses to make fresh, sweetened waffles for everyone present.
           True ___         False ___
     
  4. Waffles came to the new United States in 1789, when Thomas Jefferson, who while serving as our ambassador to France, bought four waffle irons and brought them back to his home at Monticello, where they became a favorite treat.  
           True ___         False ___
     
  5. Waffles moved from fire to stove in 1869 when Cornelius Swartwout of New York obtained a patent for the first stove-top waffle iron. And waffle irons became their own appliance in 1911 when General Electric obtained a patent for the electric waffle iron.
             True ___       False ___
     
  6. You may think of cake mixes as a new convenience of the 1950s, but the Aunt Jemima brand pancake and waffle mix began to be sold for home use in 1909.
             True ___       False ___
     
  7. In the 1950s, Frank Dorsa invented a device to create hundreds of waffles quickly and effortlessly. The waffles were then packaged, frozen, and distributed to grocery stores, and now an Eggo Waffle could be enjoyed in the same amount of time it takes to simply toast a slice of bread.
             True ___       False ___
     
  8. The Waffle House Restaurant chain which began with a single restaurant in 1955 is so famous for being open 24 hours a day 365 days a year that the doors don’t even have locks.
             True ___       False ___
Answers and explanations are at the end of the document.


The Shameless Request

Please share Wiser Now Wednesday with anyone you think might be interested, and if you represent an organization that would like a customized version, please send me a note at Kathy@WiserNow.com.


The Kiosk of Resources


Answers to Quiz
  1. True. (See resources.)
  2. True.
  3. False. These oublie salesmen existed then, but they had acquired a seedy reputation, thanks to their habit of not only making fresh waffles, but being closely followed by their companions, who were often pickpockets, gamblers, and prostitutes.
  4. False: Jefferson did bring waffle irons back from France, but the word waffle had appeared in a North American cookbook as early as 1725, and “wafel frolics” (parties) were common in the colonies.
  5. True.
  6. False. The pancake mix arrived 20 years earlier, in 1889.
  7. True. The three Dorsa brothers, who had started a food manufacturing business in their parents’ basement in 1932, had their first success with a fresh ranch egg mayonnaise which they named “Eggo Mayonnaise.” Before switching to the Eggo name for their waffles, they first called them “Froffles” (a portmanteau of frozen and waffle).
  8. False. This is an urban legend. Waffle Houses do pride themselves on remaining open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but there have been exceptions for hurricanes and other natural disasters as well as the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic. It’s been widely reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) judges how much assistance may be needed during and after storms by its "Waffle House Index." Green means the restaurant is open with a full menu, yellow, it’s open with a reduced menu, and red, it’s closed, which is really bad. Note that there are several Waffle House reduced menus including one for when the power is out and one for when the water is not running. See Resources above for more details.
My multiple goals are to amuse and inspire you, to share what I and people whom I admire am doing, to stimulate your curiosity and spur you to action. I hope you enjoyed this offering. You can access previous issues here. We welcome your feedback. (Kathy@WiserNow.com)
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