Would you like to know a bit more about the world-famous Belgian waffles? If so, you’re in the right place. Not to be confused with potato waffles, these sweet treats have been delighting people across the planet for decades. But where are they really from, and how long have they actually been around? Keep reading this article to find out all that info on more on one of your favourite breakfast treats. And they’re not just for breakfast, either.
Most American waffles are a creation that is based on the Belgian kind but isn’t exactly the same. Things have changed over the years and they have become more “Americanized”. Actually, there isn’t one definitive “Belgian” waffle to copy. There are a number of different types of waffles that all originated from Belgium and nearby areas. Some of these were made popular in different towns. So you can’t really say there’s one type of Belgian waffle that American waffles which call themselves “Belgian” are really based on. They’re more an amalgamation of a number of different waffles made popular in Belgium.
To really start working out why Belgian waffles became so famous and took off around the world, we need to look into their history a little bit. Even if they aren’t exactly like the type of waffle you can find in different towns and cities in Belgian itself, waffles that are called Belgian waffles can now be found all over the world. As with many things, when a food is transported to a new country it develops along with local tastes over the years. Much like how the pizzas created and modernised in New York and Chicago aren’t really that similar to original pizzas, but they are based on the same thing.
Well, Belgian waffles first started getting noticed on the world stage in 1958, at the World Fair which was hosted that year in Belgium itself. While they weren’t intended to be one of the main attractions of the fair, they certainly made a big impact and started to build a lasting legacy. A man called Walter Cleyman started serving waffles to visitors and guests inside the World Fair. As the fair welcomed lots of different visitors from around the world, more and more people started to notice and enjoy these waffle creations. Many of the foreign visitors hadn’t seen or tasted anything like them before, so they were quite a hit.
While waffles were known in America, having been transported over years before by previous generations of immigrants—they previously only had syrup on them and the waffles themselves had not been made to the same standard. These delicious, fluffy Belgian waffles tasted great by themselves but were also served with whipped cream, fruit and icing sugar. This was new to many of the visitors, and helped build the popularity of the Belgian waffle. Almost half a million waffles were sold at that year’s World Fair.
Four years later, at the next World Fair in Seattle, Cleyman was invited to sell his waffles once again—thanks to their popularity at the previous Fair. This is where the Belgian waffle really started to take off in popularity on an international stage, as it got noticed more and more in America.
To help him sell even more waffles in Seattle, Walter took his whole family with him along with him. Instead of just settling with one waffle stand like in the previous World Fair, Cleyman ran two in the Seattle Fair with the help of his family. Along with the great tasting waffles that were starting to grab wider attention, Cleyman sold waffles from a Belgian-themed building to really add a nice touch.
At the Seattle 1962 fair, his waffles really took off. They were seen as the biggest food-based success of the show and sold over half a million servings. The show was such a success that when it closed, Walter remained in the Seattle area where he opened his own permanent waffle shop as well as licensed another premises.
This increased exposure and demand for Belgian waffles in America really started to see things take off. A few other entrepreneurs opened similar Belgian waffle houses in California and Canada. Waffles were another big success at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 and 1965. While these waffles weren’t sold by Clayman, they helped make Belgian waffles even more popular in the states.
After this, waffles steadily became more and more common. You can now find Belgian waffles all over America in almost every town and city. The popularity and fame of Belgian waffles in the US can surely thank Walter Clayman for his original efforts to sell waffles internationally.
If you’re still wondering what separates Belgian waffles from standard American waffles, let’s have a look. Aside from the toppings, Belgian waffles are much lighter and fluffier than their original American counterparts. That’s because they have beaten egg whites in the batter mix and they have also been leavened with yeast. This helps create a fluffier and tastier mix.
Belgian waffles are also bigger and deeper. Their indents make it easier to catch toppings like syrup and ice cream. Remember, the Belgian waffles as they are known in America are different from standard American waffles, but they are also actually different from most of the waffles you’ll find in Belgium itself. That’s because they’re based on a number of different waffles whereas many different towns in Belgium have their own variation of waffle with slight differences in the batter mix, preparation, size, shape and especially the toppings.
While Belgian waffles traditionally used cream and fruits as toppings, they are now becoming more popular bases for American toppings like syrup. Many waffle houses today will offer both types of waffles. So which do you prefer?
Belgian waffles certainly have become famous, and that’s because they taste so great, are relatively easy to make and work well with a number of different toppings. Where do you get your favourite waffles from? You could even invest in a waffle iron so that you can make your own. Starting enjoying Belgian waffles today.