Today is International Waffle Day!
It originated in Sweden, probably due to confusion between the Swedish words Våffeldagen (Waffle Day) and Vårfrudagen (“Our Lady’s Day”), which also falls on March 25. Vårfrudagen marks the Annunciation, when the archangel Gabriel tells the Virgin Mary that she will become the mother of Jesus Christ. Despite this coincidence, International Waffle Day has no religious significance. In Sweden, the date is the traditional start of spring and Swedes (and many people throughout the world) celebrate by—you guessed it—eating waffles.
Historians date the origin of waffles back to the ancient Greeks, who cooked flat cakes called obleios between two hot metal plates. In the 1200s, an unknown European craftsman invented plates with the honeycomb pattern that characterize waffles. Waffles reportedly came to the New World in 1620 with the Pilgrims.
Americans also celebrate National Waffle Day on August 24. On this date in 1869, Cornelius Swartwout received the first U.S. patent for a waffle iron. Designed for use on top of coal-burning stoves, it consisted of a cast-iron griddle and cover joined by a hinge. A handle and clasp prevented the cook from being burned. When the batter was poured in, it would cook for a few minutes and then the iron would be flipped over to cook the other side. The widespread use of electricity in the early 1900s resulted in the development of the electric waffle iron, making it easy to produce one of the most popular breakfast foods.
Waffles have another distinction. About 1971, University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman was experimenting with new soles for running shoes. He wanted something to provide traction and stability, yet lighter in weight than current models. Looking at his wife’s waffles gave him an idea. He poured rubber into her waffle iron and let it cook for a few minutes. He removed it, let it harden, then cut it to the proper shape. His experiments ruined the waffle iron, but they resulted in a new shoe called the Waffle Trainer. Bowerman joined businessman Phil Knight, one of his former runners, and founded the Nike Shoe Company to market the Waffle Trainer. The shoe created a sensation among runners of all levels of ability. Today Nike is almost synonymous with running shoes and other athletic footwear.
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