“Peasants by the Hearth”, ca. 1560’s. Aertsen, Pieter, (b. 1508, d. 1575). The bowl sitting on the stool to the right is filled with freshly baked waffles.
Chicken and waffles is a trendy meal now, but the concept is not a new one. “In the evening both convention parties again met at the Pines, a resort outside of Pittsburgh, where a chicken and waffle dinner was served” . – The Heating and Ventilating Magazine. Vol. 16. July 1919.
Another writer left an account of being served chicken and waffles as hotel fare earlier in 1904. – Furniture World and Furniture Buyer and Decorator. Vol. 71. Jan. 21, 1905.
For those who possessed a waffle-iron, waffles were sometimes party fare. To invite friends or family to a waffle frolic or waffle party, was to invite them to a gathering with entertainment at which the food served would be waffles, usually with each person baking his or her own.
There were usually other foods served at waffle frolics, probably because baking the waffles was somewhat of a slow process and having other food insured everyone was well fed without waiting in line for a turn at the waffle iron. As we will see from William Livingston’s account, written in 1744, some hostesses served such a lavish array of other foods the waffles were only a portion of what guests were served.
We had the wafel-frolic at Miss Walton’s talked of before your departure. The feast as usual was preceded by cards, the company so numerous that they filled two tables; after a few games, a magnificent supper appeared in grand order and decorum, but for my own part I was not a little grieved that so luxurious a feast should come under the name of a wafel-frolic, because if this be the case I expect but a few wafel-frolics for the future; the frolic was closed up with ten sunburnt virgins lately come from Columbus’s Newfoundland, besides a play of my own invention which I have not room enough to describe at present. However, kissing constitutes a great part of its entertainment. – Earle, Alice Morse. Colonial Days in Old New York. 1896. NY.
The previous passage was penned in a letter by William Livingston, a young man of privilege and great social standing in New Jersey in 1744 while attending college at Yale. See: Appleton’s Journal. July 4, 1874.
Waffle parties were still the rage in the mid-19th century as first one hostess and then another invited a circle of friends to her home. In the North where goods were more easily obtained, even the Civil War didn’t discourage women from hosting such gatherings. – Gould, Edward Sherman. John Doe and Richard Roe. 1862. NY.
By the turn of the 19th century, books were being published instructing the hostess in the art of entertaining, and the waffle party was included in the types of gatherings people enjoyed attending.
Invitations made to resemble waffles were suggested reading, “Come and eat me” with the time, date, and address. To make the invitations, cream white satin was fashioned in the size and shape of a waffle, padded with white cotton wadding, and tacked so as to simulate the marks from the waffle-iron. They were “scorched to the right color” with a hot iron.
A card with the recipe for the waffles was placed at each table and groups went into the kitchen and made their batter according to the recipe card. As a Master of Ceremonies called out names or numbers, each guest would have a turn at baking his or her own waffle. – Pierce, Paul. Suppers: Novel Suggestions for Social Occasions. 1907. [No location of publishing]
Before the days of structured bakeries, a woman sometimes set about making waffles, muffins, great loaves of bread, cakes, etc. in her home to sell within the community in which she lived. – Foster, Emily. Teddy and his Friends. 1876. NY.
Waffle-women sold their wares from market stalls along with egg-women, poultry-women, and others. Any number of factors could have influenced the location of their venture, not the least of which was the distance from the home to the main thoroughfares of the nearest village. – Atlantic Educational Journal. Vol. 8. Oct. 1912.
It wasn’t uncommon for men or women to carry a waffle-laden basket or a large tray which hung from the shoulders and sell waffles in the street, much the same as street vendors do today. – Ballou’s Dollar Monthly Magazine. Vol. 2. Dec. 1860.
Waffles were still common street fare in New Orleans in the 1940’s, sold from a horse-drawn wagon on high wheels, and usually painted white and yellow. “Children eagerly thrust their nickels forward to purchase one of his delicious hot waffles sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar”.
One can’t help but wonder if the light and airy square puffs of perfectly cooked dough liberally sprinkled with powdered sugar and sold under the name beignets evolved from the traditional waffles sold by vendors in earlier days.
The New Orleans waffle-sellers announced their presence with a shrill blast on a bugle and sometimes by reciting a verse reminiscent of street criers from earlier centuries. Close your eyes, gentle reader, and imagine a vendor strolling down a cobblestone street calling out to hungry patrons enticing them to purchase his tender golden brown waffles.
The Waffle Man is a fine old man. He washes his face in a frying-pan, He makes his waffles with his hand, Everybody loves the waffle man. – Gumbo Yaya. Houghton-Mifflin. 1945.