Waffles are yet another example, along with modern beer, French Fries, and the saxophone, of how Belgium has been slowly and quietly conquering the civilized world.
The original Gauffre developed in the Middle Ages out of the production of Oublies, the pressed wafers fed to the confessed Catholic faithful at Mass. Medieval guilds arose to regulate and monopolize the production of both versions—the competition in France being so intense by 1560 that Charles IX legislated a minimum distance between the cooks of at least four yards. Waffles have always been a deadly serious business.
The modern American version is a descendant of the Gauffre de Bruxelles—what Americans have misnamed the Belgian Waffle—a yeasty flour recipe typically lathered up with a heart-attacking concoction of sweet whipped cream and strawberries. In Belgium itself, by far the most popular version is the Gauffre de Liege, a brioche-type dough laced with sugar and strongly recommended for the well-being of all who consume it. For centuries, immigrants have sold these piping hot treasures from doorways all over the country, including (in my youth anyway) from the guild halls in the photo.
Incidentally, the building to the right of the top photo, #1 Grand’ Place, used to house the Baker’s Guild and, since 1902, my favorite Bruxelles café, Le Roy d’Espagne. The food was always horrific tourist fare, but the gloomy, smoke-laden atmosphere, the full-sized stuffed horse in the foyer, and the lamps fashioned out of inflated pig bladders all made up for it. It was here, in 1965, that I met my first American girlfriend. Unfortunately, the only things I remember about her today are that she was blond, beautiful, a full head taller than me, and owned a Harley-Davidson. And she might have run off with a pretend Hells Angel from Indiana (although that can’t be confirmed).
But we digress. One waffle a week—that’s all we ask. At a cost of six Euros and mere inches around the waistline, you will feel so much better.