OK, I admit it, I’m on something of an American history jag at the moment, especially as it pertains to that old American Sphinx, Thomas Jefferson. Not coincidentally, it was Thomas Jefferson who helped popularize the waffle in America in the late 1700’s.
Many people don’t know that when Jefferson wasn’t composing the Declaration of Independence, designing buildings, experimenting in agriculture, writing, practicing law, playing the violin, founding universities, making discoveries in cyptography, mathematics, archaeology or paleontology, or being President of the United States, he was actually a noted epicure, the kind of fellow who would answer the White House door late at night in his bath robe and flip-flops (or at least the Colonial equivalent thereof), a wine glass in hand. Jefferson was passionate about wine, and extremely fond of French food.
Where did he acquire such refined sensibilities? At least partly in France when he was the American Minister there (back when we had “Ministers” and such) in the late 1780’s. The job entailed quite a bit of traveling around the Continent, and in fact it caused him to miss the signing of the Constitution in 1787. He made up for the lapse, however, when on a trip to Holland in 1788 he purchased four waffle irons. They were sent back to Monticello shortly thereafter, where Jefferson later put them to very good and regular use.
Yes, there are those who credit the popularity of the waffle to Dutch settlers in New York with. But then New York gets credit for so much, doesn’t it? And anyway, no one ever claimed Jefferson invented the waffle (neither did the Dutch, as it happens, but more on that tomorrow). I say let’s let Virginia and Tommy J have one for a change.