“You eat the first fourteen waffles without syrup, but with lots of butter. Then you put syrup on the next nine, and the last half-dozen you eat simply swimming in syrup. Eaten that way, waffles never hurt anybody.”
– Warren Harding
President Warren G. Harding was born on November 2, 1865, in Blooming Grove, Ohio. He spent most of his youth in the Marion County village of Caledonia, Ohio. At age 19, he bought The Marion Daily Star, a newspaper in Marion, Ohio, eventually becoming the sole owner and acting as publisher and editor; this set off his political career that led to the White House.
Belgium and Dutch in origin, waffles are amongst some of the earliest dishes in post-contact American history. Waffles first appeared in the United States in1620 when the Pilgrims brought the recipe on the Mayflower after discovering them during their brief stop in Holland. The presidential love of waffles dates to the 18th century; Thomas Jefferson reportedly started a mini American waffle craze during the 1790s when he returned from France with a goose-handled waffle iron. The earliest waffle irons were made of two hinged iron plates connected to two long wooden handles; these plates were often imprinted with elaborate patterns. On August 24th 1869, Cornelius Swartwout patented the first American waffle iron, making waffle production easier with cast-iron plates joined by a hinge that swiveled in a cast-iron collar, solidifying waffles place in American history.
Harding was as passionate about waffles as he was about politics. Dating back to his childhood, Harding requested waffles daily, either with syrup and butter, or his favorite chipped beef gravy. Though Florence Harding was not known to be a good cook, she quickly perfected her waffle recipe after her marriage to Warren in 1891. When guests came to the house, Florence Harding could often be seen dishing up stacks of waffles on plates, covering them in gravy.
In 1920, Florence Harding’s waffle recipe was published becoming a hit in households across the nation. The recipe became a symbol of a larger national campaign known as “Back to Normalcy”. This campaign aimed to return to the way of life before World War I. Florence Harding’s waffle recipe was comforting in a time of political and social unease. The recipe called for ingredients rationed during WWI, emphasizing that America was headed back to what life had been before the war. Though there is much debate if this campaign actually worked, Harding made waffles apart of the national identity; they became much more than just his favorite food.
From the Atlanta Woman’s Club Cookbook, 1921, Florence Harding’s Waffle Recipe:
2 tbls. sugar.
2 tbls. butter.
1 teaspoon salt.
1 pt. milk.
Flour to make thin batter. (I used about 2 cups flour)
2 large teaspoons baking powder
Separate the eggs
Beat yolks and add sugar and salt
Melt butter then add milk and flour and stir to combine.
Beat egg whites until stiff (but not dry) peaks form
Stir one spoonful of whites into the mixture to lighten and then fold remainder of egg whites and baking powder
Bake in a hot waffle iron.
Emily Lang, History Curator
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Crumpacker, Bunny. “Chewing the Sound Bite: Political Gastronomy.” In The Sex Life of Food: When Body and Soul Meet to Eat, 160. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2006.
Cuneo, Sherman A., and Warren G. Harding. “Fondness for Children.” In From Printer to President,, 132. Philadelphia: Dorrance, 1922.
Stephey, M.J. “Waffles.” Time. November 23, 2009. Accessed January 27, 2015. http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1942956,00.html.