National Waffle Day 2018 is Friday, August 24th. Whether you prefer your waffles loaded up with butter and syrup at breakfast, or paired with chicken for a later meal, there’s always an excuse to enjoy this battery treat.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Civilizations Were Eating Earlier Forms of ‘Waffles’ as Far Back as 8,000 Years Ago
Did you know that waffles’ history can be traced all the way back to the Neolithic Age? Original versions of what we now call waffles got their start eight thousand years ago. Historians say ancient civilizations cooked hotcakes on heated stones, using water and grain. Obviously, it’s unlikely there were any toppings. But it was a start.
Three thousand years ago, the ancient Greeks took the process a step further. They cooked grain wafers called obleios using two hot metal plates. The ingredients were placed in the middle (a precursor to the modern waffle iron). Fast forward a few hundred years; increased trade routes, aided by the rise of the Roman Empire and possibly by the spread of Christianity as well, helped expand ideas across the globe. Recipes would have been an obvious thing shared between cultures around the empire.
By the time of the Middle Ages, these wafers were sold by street vendors. Merchants continued to use irons to produce flat wafers and hotcakes. The Catholic Church even adopted the practice. Nuns used irons to make the wafers used to celebrate communion at Mass. It was around this time as well that chefs began incorporating patterns onto the wafers. The church commonly put a cross or other religious symbols. Artisans are said to have incorporated family crests and other intricate designs.
But the most common pattern was the shape of a honeycomb. It’s unclear why; it may just be the pattern that most naturally formed during the baking process. That honeycomb shape led to the creation of the modern word “waffles.” The Dutch word for honeycomb is “wafel.” Then in the early 1700s, historians say English speakers added a second ‘f’ to the word to form the modern version.
2. American Colonists Were Reportedly the First to Pair Maple Syrup with Waffles and an American is Credited with Designing the Stovetop Waffle Iron
According to the Smithsonian website, Dutch colonists brought the practice of waffle-making to America in the 1600s. It picked up steam in the mid-1700s. Colonists began putting maple syrup on their waffles, simply because syrup was more readily available than other popular toppings such as sugar. Historians say Thomas Jefferson was also a big fan of waffles and enjoyed serving them at parties.
But it wasn’t until 1869 that waffles became much easier to cook. Cornelius Swartwout was a Dutch-American from Troy, New York. On August 24, 1869, he was granted a patent for the stovetop waffle iron. It was incredibly similar to waffle irons used today; pour battle onto the griddle, close the cover and flip it after a few minutes. The only major difference was that his design required a fire. The annual celebration of National Waffle Day coincides with the issuing of Swartwout’s patent in 1869.
Frozen waffles came into existence in the 1950s. Brothers Frank, Anthony, and Samuel Dorsa started a food production company from their parent’s basement in 1932. After achieving some initial success, they eventually figured out a way to mass produce waffles, freeze and distribute waffles to grocery stores. The idea was a major success. The original name for their creation was “Froffles.” But the name eventually was changed to “Eggos.” The brand is now owned by Kellogg’s and is one of the most popular frozen waffle brands in the country. Why the name “Eggos?” The Doors brothers’ first successful product in the 1930s was an egg mayonnaise they they coined “Eggo Mayonnaise.”
3. Americans Were Introduced to the Belgian Waffle in the 1960s
In Belgium, waffles are a popular street food. The version that is most popular in America is the Brussels waffle. It first debuted in the United States in 1962, at the World’s Fair in Seattle.
But the tasty treat really took off in popularity after the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, New York. Maurice Vermersch changed the name to the “Belgian Waffle,” allegedly because most of the Americans he encountered had no idea where Brussels was located. His daughter, MariePaule, said her parents increased sales by topping the waffles with strawberries and whipped cream.
4. The Vast Majority of Americans Enjoy Waffles and More Than 60 Percent Approve of Pairing Chicken with Waffles
Only a small fraction of Americans say they do not enjoy waffles. According to a survey by NationalToday.com, 76 percent of Americans say they love the traditional breakfast treat. That love is common nationwide. The region with the greatest percentage of waffle fans are in the South. But the Midwest, West and East are mot far behind.
Chicken and waffles is also met with admiration. 32 percent describe the pairing as a “match made in heaven,” according to the survey. 23 percent said they like it, but only eat chicken and waffles on special occasions. 16 percent will eat it but prefer fried chicken as a separate meal. As for those who say chicken and waffles do NOT belong together: that’s 18 percent of those surveyed.
According to statistics, more than half of the American population enjoys the convenience of frozen breakfast. In 2017, more than 164 million Americans were estimated to have eaten frozen waffles, pancakes or French toast within the past year.
As to the debate over what is better, waffles or pancakes, the answer may depend on the region where you reside. The Washington Post found in 2015 that the Waffle House chain is more prevalent in the South, and IHOP is more greatly concentrated along the east and west coasts. That access may partially influence the argument over waffles versus pancakes.
5. Where to Find Deals on National Waffle Day
Strangely, National Waffle Day has not inspired many large restaurant chains to offer special discounts. Smaller, local restaurants may be offering deals but only one major national chain has really jumped on the bandwagon (see below).
Slim Chickens, which has headquarters in Fayetteville, Arkansas, is offering $5 Chicken & Waffles all day. Click here to find locations.
Comfort Hotels is encouraging its properties to offer free waffles to first responders, including police, firefighters and EMTs on National Waffle Day. You’ll want to check with local locations first to make sure they are offering the deal. Click here for locations. The hotel chain takes pride in its waffle offerings. In 2017, Comfort Hotels served more than 33 million waffles to guests nationwide, using more than 63,000 gallons of syrup.
Customers may find this astonishing: Waffle House, which reportedly sells 145 waffles per minute, has not promoted any special deals or giveaways on National Waffle Day! The chain has, however, put blueberry waffles back on the menu in time for the holiday. The restaurant does tend to give away a free waffle to customers that sign up for the Waffle House Regulars Club. They may also have special deals available during Waffle Week, which takes place September 2-8. So stay tuned for that.