Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Waffles - the origin of and Southern Exposure

The waffle is generally considered a Southern invention because it is most often served in tearooms and as an accompaniment to fried chicken. Actually the waffle dates from the time of the Crusades. One October day in the year 1204 a.d., Sir Giles Wimple returned from Jerusalem to his country place in Cornwall. It was a Friday and his good lady Ermintrude was in the midst of baking cakes when he arrived; but she dropped everything to greet him.

"And now sitte downe and tell me all about ye pilgrimage," said Lady Ermintrude after she bussed him on both cheeks. "Didst bagge any Saracens, pardee?"

Sir Giles, who was attired in a full suit of chain armor, sat down heavily on the settle by the stove. "Ye feete are damme near kyllynge me!" he sighed. "Well to begin wyth" And for the next half-hour he regaled his good lady with an account of his journey to Jerusalem.

"I hadde a hunche thou wolde be back today," said Lady Ermintrude when he had finished. " . . . and did thy favorite oaten cake y-bake."

"Hot dogge!" exclaimed Sir Giles, slapping his mailed thigh. "Fain wolde I eate it now."

Lady Ermintrude glanced into the oven. "I wist not," she began, puzzled. Then she uttered a cry of dismay.

"Giles! Methinks 'tis on ye settle."

Sir Giles clanked to his feet. There on the settle lay a disk of delicately crowned pastry. But it was smashed as flat as a pancake. In fact it might have been a pancake except that its surface was covered with rows of little indentationsthe imprint of Sir Giles' chain armor. At the sight of it, Lady Ermintrude flew into high dudgeon. "Tis ruined!" she cried.
"Fetch me a firkin of Devon butter, and I will eate ye whole damme thynge," he declared.

Spreading the butter over the still warm cake, he began devouring it with unaffected enjoyment. Meanwhile Lady Ermintrude, observing how the pattern on the cake caught and held the melted butter, was tempted to taste it herself. "Pardon ye ermintrusion," she said finally sitting down by her husband. "Methinks I will trye just a smydgyn."

It proved delectable beyond her expectation, largely because of the little indentations that kept the butter from running away. So every Friday thereafter it became Sir Giles' duty to put his suit of chain armor and sit on the oaten cakes his good lady baked. Her fame spread throughout the land, and the cakes where called "waffles" because it is a word that his easier to pronounce when one's mouth is full.