The History Of The Waffle Dates All The Way Back To The Middle Ages

You have to give the ancient Greeks credit. For such a small group, they created many things that still enrich our lives today — democracy, geometry, modern medical practices, the Olympics, great philosophers, and yes, even waffles (via Time).

Frozen waffles and electric waffle irons are all relatively recent inventions, but it seems that waffles have accompanied people throughout most of history. According to Time, the Athenians were the first to cook a batter between two hot irons. They called this rough bread — made from flour, water, and leavening agents — obelios. The object they used to make them consisted of two metal plates attached to long handles, allowing them to be held over a fire (via Procaffenation).

We have to assume that the evolution of the obelios was a slow process, but there is little that historians recorded on the subject. The following established step on the path from the Athenians to modern waffles occurred in medieval times. According to Procaffebation, the church introduced an unleavened version of the obelios as communion wafers.

From wafers to waffles

It was the church that first began to imprint patterns on its wafers, with crosses and depictions of Christ being common themes. Of course, it didn't take long for the aristocracy of the time to adopt similar designs to the waffle iron used to prepare the better-tasting cakes served at their tables. Coats of arms and the now familiar grid pattern became popular at this point, per Time.

The first written recipe for waffles was found to be from 1393 (via Atlas Obscura). As reported by the South Florida Times, Le Ménagier de Paris manuscript says this was a set of instructions left by a husband for his wife. There were four recipes, each of which began with what we use today — eggs, salt, and flour — but this recipe featured the addition of wine.

Though they don't use the word waffle, that is clearly what he was requesting. The actual word waffle didn't appear until many years later, in 1725. 

Waffles in the new world

According to Time, waffles came to American shores along with the pilgrims. Historians generally feel that these English separatists had been exposed to these sweet cakes while in Holland in 1607 before they departed for New England in 1620 (via History).

In these early days, waffles were greatly prized and considered a novelty. It wasn't until the ever-trendy Thomas Jefferson brought back a waffle iron from Paris in 1789 (via Time) that waffles became en vogue. As reported by Atlas Obscura, they were such a big hit that colonists held parties called waffle frolics.

The next major milestone in waffle history came in 1911 when General Electric introduced the electric waffle maker (via South Florida Times). This did away with the cumbersome waffle irons of the past and made creating beautifully uniform waffles relatively simple.

Still, they didn't reach the popularity we know today until the 1930s. Then, three brothers from California — Frank, Tony, and Sam Dorsa — first developed and marketed an instant waffle mix (via Time). With GE's electric waffle makers and the Dorsa's mix, waffles quickly became an American breakfast staple. The Dorse brother's contribution to waffle history doesn't end there. They were also the first to mass produce waffles, freeze them and make them available in grocery stores. They are the creators of the Eggos that so many Americans enjoy today.