Have you ever reached for a waffle, crisp from the toaster, and watched the butter melt into its golden crevices? Next time you do, thank the Dutch!

Waffles were around long before Eggo. Early versions were thin, round wafers. These wafers were consumed in Europe during the Middle Ages, often for religious holidays and saints’ days. Later, wafers evolved into the fluffier version known today as the waffle, and they came to be enjoyed at nearly any celebration. Both wafers and waffles could be made at home or sold by a street vendor.

While most Europeans were familiar with wafers and waffles, it was the Dutch who were especially fond of them. When they came to settle the colony of New Netherland, now New York, during the early 1600s, they brought these tasty treats with them, along with the tools of the trade.

waffle iron

Waffle iron, 1700-1800, iron. New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York, F0541.1948.

This waffle iron, from the NYSHA collection, was made in the 1700s. It may have been cast in America to continue the waffle-making tradition. Even after the English claimed New Netherland in the 1660s, Dutch settlers remained and held fairs and celebrations for religious holidays, such as Easter and Pentecost, during which waffles were sold.

This waffle iron tells us how special waffles were to settlers in New York during the 1600s and 1700s. How so? Well, when was the last time you made your waffles in a monogrammed iron? The initials on the object, “JS,” possibly belonging to the female head of household, denote ownership. The iron comes from a donor in Tarrytown, New York. Is it possible that it was used by a settler from the lower Hudson Valley? Regardless of who it belonged to, the initials, and the fancy floral decoration that separates them, are stylistic holdovers from the 1600s. Inside, each raised square is decorated with four petals, creating a small flower.

DSC00231

Waffle iron, 1700-1800, iron. New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York, F0541.1948.

Function is conveyed through the iron’s long handles, which kept the waffle-maker’s hands from getting too hot. Batter, consisting of flour, yeast, eggs, butter, and a bit of sugar, would be poured into the plates of the iron, then shut tight and held over heat until cooked. Once removed, more batter could be poured in the iron to keep the waffles coming.

So next time you’re in the mood for waffles, think of the Dutch and try the recipe below. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you could even cook them in a long-handled waffle iron!

RECIPE FOR WAFFLES*

1 package dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

pinch of sugar

4 cups all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons butter, metled and cooled

2 cups milk

2 eggs, beaten with a fork

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water, then sprinkle in the sugar. Let stand 2 minutes, then stir. Leave in a warm place until bubbly, about 5 minutes. Place the flour in a large bowl, make a hollow in the middle, and add the yeast mixture and butter. Stir to combine. Slowly stir in the milk and then the eggs. Prepare iron (either an electric waffle iron, or even better- a long-handled one!) by preheating and greasing with butter. Ladle in batter and bake until golden.

Serve for breakfast, or with a mulled glass of wine on a cold winter day.

*From Peter G. Rose, Matters of Taste: Dutch Recipes with an American Connection (Albany & Syracuse, NY: Albany Institute of History & Art and Syracuse University Press, 2002), 17.

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References:

Donna R. Barnes & Peter G. Rose, Matters of Taste: Food and Drink in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art and Life (Albany & Syracuse, NY: Albany Institute of History & Art and Syracuse University Press, 2002).

-Britney Schline, CGP ’14

Images from the Fenimore Art Museum/New York State Historical Association and the Farmer’s Museum collection include fine art, folk art, photography, Native American Indian art,  and farm related objects. Images of objects in the collections are available for scholarly or commercial publication, personal reproduction or research. Photographic images must be requested through the Rights and Reproductions Department.

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