Tahoe Waffles

Waffles are my ultimate comfort food.

Not Belgian waffles or chocolate waffles or Eggo waffles, but waffles.

How could they not be? Even the word is delicious.

Saturday morning was waffle morning. Daddy would get up and make a double (or triple—or for a season there in high school, quadruple) batch of waffles, filling the iron so full that the batter would overflow in goopy stalactites over the side. It was a consistent problem, but it was done on purpose.

The problem with waffles, of course, is that there are only four squares to a batch. (And we used vintage waffle irons that actually served more than one serving at a time, which you can’t find anymore and often come with fraying cords that occasionally will eventually catch on fire. In other words: priceless.)

It only made sense that you would maximize the serving of waffle you’d get with each square, even if you lost some over the side. And if you have five members of the family, three of which were growing bottomless stomachs, you had to produce a lot of waffles.

On the children’s side of things, getting enough waffles to eat meant you had to match your rate of consumption with the rate of production in such a way that your plate was empty when the next batch came out.

You also just couldn’t have a stack of waffles sitting there when you arrived, because they wouldn’t be crisp. The butter wouldn’t melt properly, and the tree sap would make it soggy too quickly.

We won’t even mention what it would do to the bee spit.

And then the rate of frenzied eating would slow and there would always miraculously be extras, not counting the last batch left in and forgotten (to be frozen as Duck Food*), which you could then toast and make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with for lunch.

But that was breakfast. Close, cozy, crowded, sweet, minorly bickering breakfast.

It didn’t always happen that way. Sometimes Mommy made waffles, and sometimes it was pancakes, sometimes there was fried ham, and sometimes there was bacon, but mostly there was sausage, and sometimes people would yell, but it was Saturday morning. It was Daddy Singing Loudly morning. It was Get Downstairs Fast Or You’ll Be Hungry morning.

It was routine.

I didn’t realize until much later in life how hard my parents worked to give us a routine. It was very important to the brain wiring of all three of us to have a routine in which we could function. It meant EVERY SATURDAY was waffle morning.

It also meant that every year, the day after school got out, we went to Lake Tahoe. Our grandparents had a cabin there, and as soon as the blessed routine of school was done, it was crucial to induct us into the Summer Routine, which was transitioned into by the Tahoe Routine.

The Tahoe Routine meant you had breakfast at 8 and did sundry chores until 10:30, when it was morning swim. You went to the lakefront at 10:30 and didn’t come back until noon. Then you had lunch on paper plates, which were placed in the fireplace to burn after dinner (thrilling!). Then it was nap time. Then there was afternoon swim until 4:30, at which point you got hot cocoa, a snack, and a shower. You were then encouraged to play outside or read or do whatever until dinner, after which there were card games or crayfish hunting, then story time, then bed with requisite squabbles.

But on Saturday morning, Grandma made waffles.

Grandma’s waffles were different. But not that different. They were normal waffles, but better. I never could catch just what made them better, because Grandma got up at 6:30, and I’d much rather wake up later when the waffles are ready, thank you very much.

I finally asked my mother for the recipe, and she looked at me oddly, then pulled it out of her recipe box.

It was exactly the same as the one we used at home.

I told my mother she was trying to pull a fast one on me.

She denied it.

I said, “They’re crunchier.

She said, “Yeah, that’s the cornmeal.”

I said, most politely, “WHERE IS THE CORNMEAL ON THIS RECIPE?”

And I will say this for my grandmother. If you reached into my brain and pulled up the recipe for “waffles,” this is what you’d find:

  • one scoop-ish, maybe a little more, flour
  • a shakey-shake-shake of powdered milk
  • a tap-tap-oh-crud-that’s-too-much-oh-well baking powder
  • one egg
  • two glups oil (as in, glup-glup)
  • enough water

Waffles are like that. This is what I use every morning, afternoon, evening, or teatime when I just want to munch a warm bit of happy that’s not sweet or spicy or fattening or filling.

So I’ve finally worked out with my mother the recipe for Tahoe Waffles. Here they are for your tummy’s satisfaction. Though I warn you, they will not taste right if not made on a well-seasoned§ vintage 10 x 10 waffle iron with a fabric-covered cord that may explode on you.**

Tahoe Waffles

Plug in and turn on waffle iron.


  • 7/8 cup flour (for those of you with a need for measuring exactitude, that’s ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons flour)
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cream of tartar combined with one heaping half-teaspoon of baking soda (commonly substituted with 1 heaping teaspoon baking powder)

Beat in:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Once the iron steams when opened, spoon batter in and close until waffle is golden brown.

If the waffle sticks to the iron, it is either not done enough or the iron needs oiling. Oil the iron with a pastry brush dipped in vegetable oil. Close the iron and let the oil bake in for the length of time a normal waffle would take (3 to 5 minutes).

Enjoy with butter and syrup, homemade preserves, or honey.


For Traditional Saturday Morning Waffles:

Omit whole wheat flour and cornmeal and use 1 heaping cup of flour. Substitute 1/3 cup dried milk and 1 cup water for the milk.


*We always kept a source of overdone waffles in the freezer to feed ducks and geese with before my sister grew up and became a biologist and told us Bread Is Bad for Birds. While no longer food for ducks, the last waffle is still always referred to as Duck Food. It’s my sister’s favorite.


We use the exact same recipe for pancakes. The pancakes are also delicious, but they are not waffles. While they may have Mickey Mouse ears, They do not have crispy protruding pockets to nibble nicely on.


To maximize the nibbly bits, my sister devised the Dofle (or Donut-Waffle), wherein you spoon a narrow open ring of batter on the iron. Certified genius.


§It should be cast-iron, which means it might need oiling if some inexperienced person tried to wash it. One does not wash waffle irons. There will only ever be waffle on waffle irons. If some pieces get stuck, they will char and eventually release beautifully into a freshly-baked masterpiece. Washing waffle irons is a culinary tragedy that one must attempt to forgive.


**Real waffle irons die with their boots on.


4 thoughts on “Tahoe Waffles

  1. Sheila Pallotta says:

    Noel. I think you have something with this one. Really. tighten it up a little bit and find the right magazine/ journal.

  2. Sharyn says:

    LOVE this post. Love it. Sheila is right. It deserves a life after this one. Submit it somewhere 🙂 You write like a dream, my friend.

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