Today is National Waffle Day, a celebration of the best food imaginable. As big-time breakfast fans now, there are few things in the world better than smothering waffles with syrup and enjoying them to start your day.
Several businesses across the country will have deals on waffles, either giving them away for free or providing discounts. Last year, several local restaurants gave away free waffles to attract customers.
Here’s a look at the history of waffles and where you can get some deals.
1. National Waffle Day Marks the Anniversary of the First Waffle Iron Patent Issued in 1869
While the exact origin of National Waffle Day is unknown, it doesn’t have an arbitrary date. According to National Day Calendar, August 24 marks the anniversary of the first U.S. waffle iron patent. It was issued to Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York on August 24, 1869.
According to the Swarthout family, Swarthout’s original waffle iron worked by removing “one of the stove lids and replace it with the ring. Then heat up the waffle iron on the coal stove – and later the gas range – pour the batter on the griddle, close the cover and after a few minutes, flip the griddle in its little groove, and cook the other side of the waffle.”
When the waffle iron was patented, Swarthout spelled his last name as “Swartwout.” You can find the original patent right here.
2. The Waffle Has Its Origin in the Oublies of Europe From the Middle Ages
The waffle we know today has its roots in the oubiles, a treat from the early Middle Ages. They were made of only train flour and water, similar to the communion wafer. During the Crusades, new flavors and foods were brought to Europe, and many of these flavors found their way into oubiles. The word “oublie” (which also means “forgotten” in French) wasn’t used to describe the food until around 1200, the Centre National de Ressources Textuelles er Lexicales notes.
The Nibble notes that the oublie became the “waffle” during the 1200s. At this time, craftsman start making cooking plates or “irons” in the shape of the modern waffle. The world “wafla” translates to “a piece of honeybee hive,” describing the look of the waffle.
According to The Nibble, there were so many street vendors selling waffles that King Charles IX (1560-1574) of France regulated waffle business. By the 16th Century, waffles became a common meal for all social classes.
3. The Modern Waffle Started Appearing in 16th Century Paintings, but It Wasn’t Until the 18th Century That ‘Waffle’ Appeared in the English Language
The first “wafles” arrived in America thanks to the Pilgrims in 1620 since they went to Holland before crossing the Atlantic. According to Merriam-Webster, the word “waffle” comes from the Dutch word “wafel,” which has its roots in the Middle Dutch word “wafele.” It’s similar to the Old High German word “waba” for honeycomb and Old English “wefan” to weave.
According to Merriam-Webster, the first known use of the word “waffle” is 1744. However, The Nibble reports that it was used in print in 1735.
The waffle we know today began to be depicted in paintings in the 16th Century. Waffles can be seen in The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, a 1559 painting by Pieter Brugel the Elder of a festival in the Southern Netherlands. During the 16th and 17th Centuries, the Dutch and Belgians refined their recipes.
Today, the most popular waffle in Belgium is the Liege Waffle. It was created in the 18th Century, but the full recipe wasn’t published until 1921.
The Belgian Waffle we eat in the U.S. has very little to do with the real waffles you’ll eat in Belgium. As WNYC noted, in Belgium, waffles are supposed to be hand-held food. the Vermersch family introduced the Belgian waffle to Americans at the 1964-65 World’s Fair.
Originally, the waffle was known as the “Brussles waffle,” but the Vermersch family thought that would hurt the Belgian waffle’s chances at becoming popular in the U.S., notes the Huffington Post. Their plans worked so well that they needed to hire 10 people to slice strawberries for waffles at the World’s Fair.
4. There Are Over 2,100 Waffle Houses in the U.S.
The American waffle is very different from the Belgian waffle, as the batter is usually leavened with baking powder and are rectangular. America’s favorite place to get waffles is Waffle House, which has over 2,100 locations across the U.S., mostly in the Southeast.
As The Huffington Post notes, Waffle Houses are so popular in Atlanta that there are 132 of them there. Cantersville, Georgia, which is north of Atlanta, has 45. Other cities with a high Waffle House-density are Greenville, South Carolina with 34; Athens, Georgia with 29 and Fort Worth, Texas with 25.
Waffle House was founded in Atlanta in 1955 and the locations are famous for being open 24/7. In fact, as FiveThirtyEight reported last year, there is an informal “Waffle House Index.” In other words, if Waffle House is closed, you know a hurricane or tropical storm is really bad.
The term was created by Federal Emergency Management Agency Director W. Craig Fugate in 2011 after the Joplin, Missouri tornado when two Waffle Houses stayed open. FEMA noticed how well Waffle House manages disasters.
“They know immediately which stores are going to be affected and they call their employees to know who can show up and who cannot,” Panos Kouvelis, Ph.D., the Emerson Distinguished Professor of Operations and Manufacturing Management, told EHS Today in 2011. “They have temporary warehouses where they can store food and most importantly, they know they can operate without a full menu. This is a great example of a company that has learned from the past and developed an excellent emergency plan.”
5. Many Restaurants Selling Waffles Offer Deals on National Waffle Day
Just as many restaurants did last year, there are plenty of offers for free or discounted waffles. Here’s a look at some of the offers.
BTooDC has half-priced waffles:
Iron Roost in Ballston Spa, New York is offering a $1 off your order:
Waffles & Wedges in Philadelphia is offering free Mini Chocolate Dips with a purchase:
Last year, Comfort Inn by Choice Hotels is serving free waffles to first responders. This year they are doing that again. Choice Hotels is also launching the #WhatsYourWaffle campaign, which ends on October 12. You can go to ComfortHotelsWaffleDay.com or vote on social media for your favorite flavors – Birthday Cake, Sweet Caramel or Cinnamon Roll. You’ll be entered into a contest if you include #WhatsYourWaffle and #Sweepstakes in your post. You can win 500,000 Choice Privilege Points.
Although this isn’t specific to National Waffle Day, you can join Waffle House’s Regulars Club to get deals and coupons for waffles. You get a free waffle when you first sign up.