You can’t make waffles without a waffle iron

King Harald.Photo: Marit Hommedal / NTB scanpix

On Saturday it is 150 years since the waffle iron was patented. Although you cannot make a waffle without a waffle iron, the pastry has roots back to ancient Greece.

The waffle is folk food. Everyone loves waffles, says researcher Eva Narten Høberg at the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomics (NIBIO).

She researches food traditions and has written the article about waffles in Stor norsk leksikon (Great Norwegian Encyclopedia).

Saturday is 150 years since American inventor Cornelius Swartwout took the first patent on the waffle iron. Still, the waffle has its roots all the way back to ancient Greece, while the first irons with the characteristic checkerboard patterns were forged in Germany and the Netherlands in the 1300s.

Here in Norway, the waffle is first mentioned in sources from the 18th century.

5.2 million irons sold
Figures NTB has received from the electronics industry show that last year 263,000 waffle irons were sold in Norway.

Høberg is aware that the iron is what makes the waffle a waffle.

You can’t make waffles without a waffle iron. We have some dishes that are very similar to the waffle, such as pancakes, crêpes and milk cakes, but we fry these on a grate or in a frying pan, she says.

When records of waffle iron sales began in 1987, 94,000 irons were sold, and since then sales have steadily risen, with 277,000 sold iron in 2013 as a provisional peak. A total of 5.2 million waffle irons have been sold since 1987. If all the irons were to be in use today, this corresponds to about one waffle iron per capita in Norway.

The researcher believes the increase in sales is due to the fact that the waffle has become more popular, rather than people replacing their iron more often than before.

We are concerned about our cultural heritage and the Norwegian tradition to a greater extent than before. We see a lot of this in trend research, and I think that also applies here, says Høberg.

Waffle with meat roll
Here in Norway, the waffle iron is in thousands of homes. This sets Norway apart from Europe by the way. Waffles are popular in many other countries as well, such as in France and Belgium, but waffle irons at home are not as common there, says Høberg.

She points out that the waffle recipe itself is not so different from the one they use in other parts of the world.

The characteristic of the Norwegian waffle is the heart shape, and what we have on it. Here there are interesting cultural differences. Most people use jam and sour cream or brown cheese, but on Helgeland and in Nord-Trøndelag they have savoury toppings such as meat roll or eggs and anchovies. It seems that us lot farther south are very strange, says the researcher.

She also comes with some waffle-making tips.

I’m a fan of using barley flour, which is also what the first waffles in Norway were made with. This flour has a unique nutritional composition that wheat flour does not have. In addition, I recommend using a lot of eggs, which are also fantastic nutritionally, says Høberg.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today

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