Happy Monday! There’s nothing quite like starting the weekend off with a big stack of waffles, something that is usually just out of reach when it comes to realistic breakfasts at home on a busy weekday morning. Am I right? Today’s waffles come from a family friend, Jamie Schuster, who taught my parents how to make these waffles when they were in medical school together in the 80s. These light waffles come together mostly overnight, and could certainly be do-able before you dash out the door for work.
As an appreciator of the quirky paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, I can’t help but be reminded of him when it comes to waffles. Bruegel’s The Fight Between Carnival and Lent features one of the earliest known images of waffles in popular culture; some of the more gluttonous villagers have waffles attached to their helmets! The first waffle irons in Europe probably started popping up around the 15th century, and haven’t left the Netherlands since. Stroopwaffles – very thin waffles with sweet syrup between to layers are a popular Dutch street food, and can be purchased anywhere in most touristy places around the Netherlands.
Other than being an early example of the popularity of waffles in 16th century Northern Europe, Bruegel’s painting is significant for highlighting the tension between the religious and popular spheres of a small Flemish village. The busy picture shows the more pious villagers near the church to the right side of the picture, preparing for Lent. To their left is an inn, where villagers celebrate a final fling before their Lent-imposed month of abstinence. From his bird’s eye view of the scene, Bruegel approaches this subject matter without judgment, and instead provides an entertaining depiction of the extremes of both the religious and secular.
Here, waffles are shown more on the earthly side, as a symbol of gluttony and feasting. Thankfully I am not asking you to start your week off with a heavy meal—these waffles are light and perfect for starting your week on the right foot. Something I am definitely looking forward to after spending the last two weekends thoroughly enjoying myself at the weddings of close family and friends (Congrats Beth and Chris! Congrats Mary Catherine and Chris!). Before I too embark on tons of wedding planning (more on that soon!), I am taking every opportunity to enjoy a leisurely breakfast, and start my weeks and days with something like this awesome waffle.
1 individual package baker’s yeast
2 cups milk, warmed
½ cup butter or oil, melted
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon honey
2 cups flour (my family always uses 1 cup all-purpose + 1 cup whole wheat)
½ cup warm water
pinch of baking soda
The night before:
Dissolve the yeast into the warm water and stir in the sugar or honey. Add the warmed milk, along with the salt, oil or butter and flour. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in a warm place overnight (I keep mine in a closed microwave).
In the morning:
Add the eggs and baking soda and let warm to room temperature while the waffle iron preheats. Cook according to your waffle iron, and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from the Blueberry Hill Cookbook, makes about 4-5 large waffles
Featured art: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, 1559, oil on panel (shown in full and detail)