Back in 1964, Americans hadn’t set foot on the moon and Belgian waffles hadn’t set foot on our plates. Enter MariePaule Vermersch and her family, Belgian immigrants who saw an opportunity to share a piece of their culture and build a business at the same time.
At the World's Fair of 1964-65, the Vermersches served Belgian waffles to eager eaters who were delighted by the taste and novelty of the hand-held waffle with the deep wells and crisp crust.
"The line never ended...we had 24 machines that never stopped running," MariePaule says. At the end of the day, she explained that, "Sometimes we had fights, we had people fighting, 'one more, one more!'"
But MariePaule’s father was unable to capitalize on the stand’s popularity, which remains a sore point for her family to this day. The decline of the waffles themselves over the years, as they’ve spread across the country, only adds salt to the wound. (Some misguided souls have taken to making waffles with pancake mix!)
"There's this misconception about Belgian waffles, that it's just the shape," says Steve Lipschutz, general manager of Wafels and Dinges in New York. "And it boils down to much more than that: the ingredients, the irons that it's baked on, the preparation, how you eat it, and we found that wasn't being respected."
Steve and MariePaule join Dan in this very special episode of The Sporkful to talk about MariePaule's role in American food history and Steve's attempt to return the Belgian waffle to its rightful place.