Do you know how kids, when they're young, wake up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning and dive headfirst downstairs to look under the tree, while mom and dad are hoping for a little more sleep first? Fast forward to a few years later, when the same kids are home from college for the holidays and, around 11:00 a.m. on Christmas morning, mom and dad are saying, "Are they ever going to wake up and come down here?"
I got a gift this year I'd really been hoping for: a waffle iron. I'd wanted it since getting used to having fresh waffles while on vacation earlier this year, when the hotel had an electric one in the lobby as part of their breakfast set-up. Since the last thing I need is another electric appliance on my kitchen counter, I got one of the old-fashioned cast iron kind for the stove top.
If you've never had cast iron cooking equipment, your first is a real experience. First you have to bake it to clean off the paraffin used to protect it during shipping. Then you have to oil it and bake it again to "condition" it. Turns out cast iron is not naturally non-stick. Who knew? For washing, ti's water only. If you use soap, it undoes all that conditioning.
Combining the convenient parts of several batter recipes, including some I just made up, I proceeded eagerly into this new adventure and made my first waffle. Or what would have been my first waffle had the half that didn't overflow onto the stove not burnt to an unrecognizable crisp and gotten shredded as I tried scraping it out. A few minutes and one quick visit to the Internet later (and now armed with information on how to actually use a cast iron waffle maker), it was time to scrape it clean for another attempt. I was determined to make as many tries as it would take to cook something edible. (That's what big bowls of batter are for, right?) The second try wasn't much better, though at least it didn't overflow. The third try came out overcooked but moderately edible, assuming the person you gave it to was either really hungry or in a charitable mood. The fourth and fifth tries came out reasonably. The fifth quickly became a total disaster when I poured the last of the batter into the bottom half of the waffle iron and then, drunk with my new-found waffle-making successes, put the top half on up-side down. (In the true spirit of foolishness, the fact that the two sides of the top half look nothing alike wasn't enough to prevent me from doing this.) What I was able to scrape off became my portion, but that's ok. One of the great parts of cooking things yourself is that food which you'd recognize as horrible if someone else made it ends up tasting great to you.
The waffle iron is now rinsed, oiled and stored away till I get a rematch. And this time it's personal.
Class of 2008
I may not have put decorations on the tree or remembered to buy a wreath, but at this time of year the gingerbread cookies just have to get made. Some readers may recall that last year, in addition to making conventional gingerbread men I put together a kind of designer series. (They're at
http://ben-better-left-unsaid.blogspot.com/2007/12/ah-christmas.html. Right click on the partial photo and select "view image" to see the whole photo.) This year, I am pleased to announce the following new additions: