ANYONE following a reducing diet is likely to be pursued by recollections of forbidden food. The waffle, for instance, has no great status on the ordinary menu; a household may go for months nowadays without anything like a waffle, no matter how convenient the ready-made mix. I hate to admit it, but I believe the waffle mix produces just as good waffles as the big sifting and folding and whites-and-yolks jobs in the cookbooks. Even so, a man goes along without finding the occasion for waffles, or thinking about it, until, successfully engaged with a diet that all but omits the starches, he is suddenly reminded of waffles. He may put aside the memory for a few days, but then waffles confront him on every hand. If he happens to be reading a cookbook — there is no literature so attractive to a man on a diet as a cookbook — he finds himself in the waffles section and trying to decide whether the buttermilk recipe is better than others; restaurant menus seem to develop an abrupt interest in waffles; the four-color pages in his magazines abound in convincing photographs of waffles. All these phenomena can be made to disappear, and the dieter can rid himself of any future addiction, simply by mixing an excessive quantity of batter and eating as many waffles as he can face. It is quite impossible that they will be as good as he had expected. By the time he has eaten two or three too many, he will be wondering what on earth ever seduced him away from the celery hearts, cottage choose, etc., etc.
The truth is, of course, that waffles, like homemade doughnuts or griddle cakes or popovers, are only for the immoderate. They arc not intended to be eaten sparingly, a fact which seemed lost on most of the hostesses who have ever offered me waffles. The usual technique, at the light potluck supper for which the waffle has seemed appropriate, is to use only one waffle iron and to divide its output into four sections. Each guest is served one section after a considerable wait, and the hostess manages to set up the fiction that each is receiving a waffle instead of a fourth of a waffle. Since one of these quarter sections is hardly more than two bites, a man really hungering for waffles is hardly reassured when he hears her asking, “Won’t you have another waffle? Surely anyone can eat two waffles!” This is the old divide-by-four situation; the guest must realize, also, that six or eight other people must receive their fraction of the waffle before he can decently step up for his second.
My own defense against the quarter waffle was to lie back, completely out of the running, with a view to waiting until everyone else was satisfied, and then settling down to a sheaf of full-size waffles at the finish. I was more or less successful, urging others to go right ahead (“I’ll try one later”) and being quite the selfless passer of other people’s plates. This hypocrisy enabled me on several occasions to do away with fairly large quantities of waffles, uninterruptedly, while the rest of the company went on to salad and coffee. One waffle after another, hot and complete in all four of its fourths, duly fell to my extended plate. But like all resistance to established custom, mine was doomed to eventual failure.
The fiasco came one Sunday evening when, despite my experience in getting what I wanted, I allowed my attention to wander from the business in hand. There were a dozen or so other guests, and a high percentage of them were proving to be repeaters, grateful for an extra quarter waffle, and a few of them looking like lasting the route and achieving whole waffles all to themselves. I was especially hungry and a long delay for my cleanup scheme seemed inevitable, so after declining a few preliminary quarters I took a chair on the fringe of things and drifted into conversation.
The next thing I knew, my hostess was handing me a plate of lettuce salad. “Oh, didn’t you get any waffles?” she cried, when I modestly suggested that now was the time for me, ever the courteous, the deferential guest, to have my crack at the main dish. “They’re all gone!”
It was true. The pitcher of batter had vanished. So had the niggardly little waffle iron. Think nothing of it, I assured the hostess — a mere scratch. The salad — bah! — was all that I ever needed of a Sunday evening.
It was just about ten years ago that we published in these pages an article “ Young Hunger,”by M. F. K. Fisher, an account of the ravening appetites of young people and their capacity, without effect on jowls or waistline, for limitless quantities of food. The author’s purpose was to remind older and sedentary people that the sparse diet of their later years, however elegant, is near starvation for the adolescent who can do away with a chocolate cake and a quart or so of rich milk at 5 P.M. and sit down with gusto for dinner an hour later.
The adolescent trencherman is much like the moth, which consumes blankets, bathing suits, furs and upholstery, overcoats and rugs, and still remains a moth, scarcely able to tip the balance of a jeweler’s scales. So it is with the young, who count their waffles by the dozen, spaghetti by the pound, on whom sweets have no more effect than starches, who can butter anything that suits their fancy and remain as gaunt as a greyhound. How pleasurable to have the metabolism of the moth!