When I was a kid, my brother and I would get up early on Saturday morning and make waffles. It was a team effort. One of us measured flour, sugar, and milk, the other separated eggs. One of us melted butter, and the other took the bowl of egg whites out the front door and up the stairs to the footpath outside our house to noisily beat them into stiff peaks. All this was in the interest of keeping our parents asleep, which was in the interest of us being able to watch TV until they woke up and normal rules of the house resumed. But until then, in those dark early hours of the weekend, our life was a paradise of waffles and cartoons so it paid to keep things quiet. I'm pretty sure the electric waffle iron we had was something my grandfather won at golf. Certainly my mother would never have purchased anything so frivolous. Plus, she considered pancakes and waffles a bit déclassé, preferring instead thin, lacy crêpes. Not me! I'll take fat, fluffy and unrefined any day of the week.
My more recent waffle memories are from a road trip I did with my dad a few years ago, in the American south. We fell in love with a fast food chain called The Waffle House, whose cheery yellow sign seemed to greet us from whatever highway we travelled or motel we ended up in. Quite frequently, we'd begin or end each day with a stop there, and one of us would always get waffles. Look at us. See. We look happy. That's what waffles do to you.
To this end I asked my dad on a recent trip down to see me if he could bring the waffle iron. Not the electric one - that died long ago, in a cloud of black, acrid smoke - but one of my grandmother's old ones that had been relegated to my parents' camping kit. I don't remember Mum and Dad ever using them, nor does my father ever remember his mother - who he inherited them from - using them in her lifetime. It's entirely possible she bought them as kitchen accessories as they're so pretty with their jaunty red wooden handles, and my grandmother did love a theme in her kitchens. Anyway, Dad duly packed it in his suitcase and brought it down and one Saturday not so long ago, I whipped up some waffles. For old times' sake. For my family. And our history of waffles.
Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson, via BBC Food
It depends what sort of waffle iron you use - some will need to be greased before filling. I used a pastry brush and melted butter to make sure all the crevices were fully coated. If the first one comes out torn, do not panic. They will get better as you go. Always regard the first waffle or pancake as a tester. "For the dog" as my father would say, before eating it. If you're making these for a crowd, you may like to stash the waffles as they're made in a low oven, so that they stay warm and you can serve everyone at the same time.
3 large eggs, separated
125ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp sugar
maple syrup, blueberries, or other berries, to serve
Heat the waffle iron and grease if necessary (electric ones are usually non-stick and won't need it but check the manual).
Pour milk into a large measuring jug. Add the egg yolks, oil and vanilla and beat together. Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Pour the jug of wet ingredients into the flour mixture, and whisk together, making sure there are no lumps.
In a clean bowl, whisk egg whites to stiff peaks. Slowly fold into the batter, til it's a thick, smooth and airy consistency.
Fill one side of your heated waffle iron with batter, close and cook for 1 minute, then turn the waffle iron over and cook on the other side for 2 minutes. If you’re using an electric waffle iron, you won't need to turn it over, so you may need to cook for a minute or so longer. Just refer to instructions that come with your machine.
Ease the cooked waffle out of the waffle iron. Repeat until all the batter is used up.