December 28th, 2010
As ever, when I end up with leftover yams, I’ve been making waffles. I use a delicious recipe for golden yam waffles from that modern compendium, The Joy of Cooking. This morning I’ve made a double batch (thanks to my new enormous glass mixing bowl). After eating our fill, the remainder are bound for the freezer; there will be enough to sustain our waffle cravings for some time!
Waffles are not only tasty however — they are a New York tradition, going back to the Dutch founders, and pleasantly continued throughout the 19th century in the quaint form of ‘waffle parties.’
“A few evenings later in the autumn, the Doe tea-table was thus occupied: Miss Doe, at the tea and coffee urns; Miss Jane Doe; Mr. John Doe; the reverend Mr. Duncan; Alfred Traverse. It was Miss Doe’s waffle-party ; the first of the season. And if Miss Doe, in the housekeeping category, was strong on anything, she was strong on waffles.”
— John Doe and Richard Roe; or, Episodes of life in New York, 1862
“The most popular form of entertainment in the early part of the century were waffle parties, and these were given with persistent frequency by all hostesses in New York, and were a noteworthy feature of the place, marking as they did the survival of early Dutch entertainments, that were cherished by their descendants. The hostesses of the day were none of them particularly anxious for social leadership, but all were noted for warm-hearted hospitality that mule them delight to gather around their square mahogany tables all their most intimate neighbors, friends and relations. Waffle parties were held at eight o’clock in the evening, and when this sweet cake, baked in especially prepared irons, had been disposed of. the company would gather in the parlors and play simple intellectual games, such as “capping verses.” or else indulge in more romping amusements, like blindman’s buff, pillows and keys, et cetera, which are now relegated to the nursery.”
— Cosmopolitan, Volume 27, 1899
I should very much like to attend a waffle party! Since the custom seems to have died out in the 21st century, I rather expect I may need to organize the party myself. And you’re all invited (details to be announced someday soon). In preparation, here are a few mid-19th century waffle receipts, courtesy of Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book, by Catherine Beecher:
One quart of flour, and a teaspoonful of salt. One quart of milk, with a tablespoonful of melted butter in it, and mixed with the flour gradually, so as not to have lumps. Three tablespoonfuls of distillery yeast. When raised, two well-beaten eggs. Bake in waffle irons well oiled with lard each time they are used. Lay one side on coals, and in about two minutes turn the other side to the coals.
Miss B.’s Waffles (without yeast).
One quart of flour, and a teaspoonful of salt. One quart of sour milk, with two tablespoonfuls of butter melted Five well-beaten eggs. A teaspoonful or more of saleratus, enough to sweeten the milk. Baked in waffle irons. Some like one tea-cup full of sugar added.
A quart of milk. A tea-cup of solid boiled rice, soaked three hours in half the milk. A pint and a half of wheat flour, or rice flour.Three well-beaten eggs. bake in waffle irons. The rice must be salted enough when boiled.
And here is my own favorite (modern) recipe for Golden Yam Waffles, cribbed from The Joy of Cooking:
1/2 cup boiled mashed yam or winter squash
3 well-beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
2 Tbsp melted butter or shortening
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp sugar
Cinnamon or nutmeg to taste
Stir flour into yam mixture just enough to moisten. Bake according to your waffle iron directions.