Well, I was going to do a couple Newberys today, but I found out via a Facebook post that today is National Waffle Day. That got me thinking along another line, so I am going to delay the Newbery in favor of writing about what National Waffle Day reminds me of: eating with my kids.
First, the history part of this auspicious day. It is National Waffle Day because on this day in 1869, Cornelius Swartwout (that is a great name!) received a U.S. patent for the waffle iron. Waffles had been in existence before that – back in the middle ages something akin to a waffle iron would produce communion wafers with images of Jesus – but the waffle as we know it … golden, crispy, pocketed, yumminess … comes from the work of Mr. Swartwout. Heat those irons up people!
What waffles got me thinking of was a phenomena that would occur in our house when waffles were made, and how some of the best memories that I keep are around cooking and eating at our table with the kids.
Sam and Ali were both born in our early years in Kansas City. In those early years, Dan was lawyering hard and traveling quite a bit. I remember when Dan was gone one time and I was sitting at the kitchen table with Sam in his high seat and Ali in her baby seat. I can’t remember what we were eating, but I do know that I would always fix dinner and we would sit down at the table. While I cooked, Sam would either sit on the counter or sit on the floor and play in his cupboard that was full of pans, bowls, spoons and other delightful things of that nature. Ali would sit in her baby seat looking cute and probably sleeping. One night, when I was sitting there eating with the two of them, I had this revelation. We were having such a fun time and they were such good dinner company! I bet Sam was not even three and Ali very young when this happened, but the memory of my aha is still very clear. I loved sitting and eating and talking and joking with those guys – and I still do.
Many years ago when Sam and Ali were little, we had some friends who were just getting married. These two couples were perfect for each other and we knew that they would make great parents. We wanted to influence them in that direction, so we planned a yearly get together after Christmas – a Twelfth Night party. We would have a special dinner with a special dessert, and the kids were always a big part of that. The dinners went on for years and the couples did become wonderful parents. Those dinners still seem very fresh and special in my mind.
There have been other special cooking and dining moments in the house. There was redneck New Year’s Eve where we deep fried egg rolls on the front porch. We have made tamales and pasta and pierogies together. The kids made dinner on their own on occasion – I remember a particular meal that had a bread salad that Ali was quite proud of.
It becomes a touchstone. To end the day with food and people you love. To sit down at the table and talk. There were almost certainly days that we sat down and one of us was mad at another of us, but I don’t think there were many of those. I remember more laid back eating, arguing about dishes, and lots of very funny and often inappropriate wit. The best.
Here is where waffles come in. Often, when Dan was away, I would cook waffles for dinner. Sam and Ali love waffles, and they can also be competitive. Waffles eating became a contest and continues to be out there as something I think they would willingly return for a rematch should the occasion arise. The last time it did, I believe they were both in college. It involved a pre and post waffle weigh in that was inspirational. Waffles as belly sponges is the concept to keep in mind. I kind of remember that Sam won, but I am not sure. I am sure that we laughed a lot.
Talking on the phone with Sam the other day, I laughed when he told me that he did not know how to beach. That is true. Missouri is not really a place where beaches are readily found, and we did not do many vacations as they were growing up. He never got much opportunity to get his beach on. But, I can tell you this… the boy knows how to waffle.
Happy waffle day to all and many thanks to Mark Swarthout (!) for giving me permission to use his waffle iron pictures. You can see more here: http://swarthoutfamily.org/Famous/Waffle.htm