Calming Waffles

Half a cup of flour, slightly less of almond milk. Tablespoons of canola oil and molasses. Half a teaspoon of baking powder. Purists don’t like it: no egg, no beaten whites, no milk, no sugar. More important, there’s that electric waffle iron. Only a philistine would use such a thing. Not and claim they were any sort of waffle purist.

But it anchors my morning, sometimes humming Danny Kaye’s “Blackstrap Molasses” from the year I was born (“makes you live so long you wish you were dead”) as I prepare it, and wondering how James Shaw, Jr. is doing and if he has returned to that Waffle House in Tennessee where he saved lives. And wondering if he’d get served in that other Waffle House, the one in Georgia where a young man in his prom finery was roughed up.

Maybe we should all make our waffles at home. The likelihood of naked shooters spraying the breakfast nook and the kitchen is quite small. So is the chance of being thrown against a wall by a cop, though that’s a great deal larger. Especially if you are black.

My mother had a Sunbeam electric waffle iron. I remember when she got it, sometime in the late fifties, and know now that it was a fire hazard. I don’t remember waffles from before that time, though I surely ate them (my grandmother, just as certainly, still had an old real-iron maker for the stovetop along with the latest electric—and used both, just as she ground coffee by hand—or made us kids do it—and in an electric grinder). The first batch of my mother’s waffles would always stick, and she would save the tattered remains of those to eat herself.

Even as a kid, I thought that weird. The taste was the same and keeping them aside just let them get cold. Serve ‘em to the rest of us hot and eat a hot one yourself, Mom. Forget about what they look like.

For a time, in graduate school, I would invite other students to Sunday brunch. Pot luck. I would provide the waffles, carefully whipping egg whites so that they would always be

chicken barkoissi
Me in Peace Corps, holding a chicken as a little girl cuts its throat.

light and fluffy. Now, because I don’t like the way chickens are cared for, I eat few eggs (I’ve given up pork, lamb and beef as well as chicken: I don’t mind slaughtering animals for food, but I detest the way they are ‘cared’ for today). For the life of me, I can’t tell the difference between the waffles I make now and those I made then.

Although then I hadn’t woken to the fact of the pancake/waffle scam from the food companies. I believed, on no evidence, that making them from mixes was easier than from scratch (‘from scratch’—what the hell does that mean, anyhow?). All ya gotta do is remember the baking powder.

I should have known better. One of my brothers, an almost absolute failure in the kitchen, had his singular success when about five. He managed to make French toast. A week later, with our mother in the supermarket, I saw him standing stock-still, staring in horror at a frozen-food cabinet. There, right in front of him, was frozen French toast.

The process of making something like waffles on a regular basis first thing in the morning soothes the day, the whole day. You develop a pattern: get out bowl, plate, rubber spatula, measuring spoons and cup, all the ingredients. Then plug in the waffle iron itself. Mix contents and, just as you are done, the iron beeps. While the waffle bakes,

The March 17, 2018 waffle, ready to come off the iron.

slice a banana and scoop yogurt over it. Grind coffee and brew—it will be ready just as the waffle is. Set up the tablet computer on the table with fork, spoon, the yogurt/banana mix. The iron beeps again; the coffee is ready. I sit down alone, for my wife doesn’t care for this feast and has already finished her breakfast.

Now I can read about a world going to hell, another story about a monomaniacal president being ‘played’ by North Korea, his desire for a Nobel Prize getting the better of him. Of an ‘election’ in Venezuela, if you can call it that, a failed state that, not twenty years ago, was the apple of the eye of the left. Of a president contradicting himself about paying off a porn star and calling undocumented immigrants ‘animals’ (documents, I guess, make the person—just as do the gifts from the wizard of Oz). All of that from the front page of The Washington Post.

It’s bad, but it would be worse without waffles.

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