By SHANNON WATKINS
There are dark episodes in human history which we seldom speak of.
Some involve terrible accidents. Some involve wars or plagues. Some were entirely manmade and thus preventable, like reality TV or Pauly Shore’s career, and yet we, as a species, did nothing to stop them.
It is among this last category that we shall dwell this week. I’m referring, of course, to the period in America’s culinary history where people thought nothing of adding tuna, Jell-O or canned soup to pretty much any dish and expected sane persons to eat the results.
Those of you with an irreverent wit and a taste for creepy nostalgia may already be aware of James Lileks’ website, The Institute of Official Cheer (Google it) and its most celebrated sub-site, The Gallery of Regrettable Food (also available in book form). Many years old now, it’s still a well-maintained, stalwart pleasure and a great way to kill several coffee breaks over a few weeks’ time. Lileks curates dozens of mid-twentieth-century commercial recipes and the manically cheerful, luridly-colored ads they appeared in.
From stuff like a pictorial essay on Aunt Jenny of (defunct) Spry brand shortening to the joys of (horrid-looking) “10 P.M. Cookery,” I really can’t over-recommend it as a means to make you appreciate even the most lackluster chicken salad sandwich or indifferently prepared meatloaf.
Recently I came across something similar in my Facebook feed; a recipe from the same era that consisted of canned tuna mixed with cream of mushroom soup, milk and stuffed green olive rings, poured over waffles. I wish I was kidding.
Naturally, I reposted it, and scores of my friends who could have been spared the sight of this went to sleep with tuna ‘n’ waffles-based nightmares. (Look, if I had to suffer, so did they.) Most of them still aren’t speaking to me.
It did, however, get me thinking about waffles, because why not? I lived, until recently, with a waffle iron (not in sin; we were just friends) and thus had access to making more breakfast options. I know we’ve been very breakfasty around here lately, but I promise you this particular recipe is easy, delicious and tuna-free.
The waffle iron and the basis for this week’s recipe both came courtesy of said waffle-iron’s owner, my former roommate. A Texas redhead at equal ease with guns, horses and two-stepping, she passed along her family’s secret waffle recipe with the admonition that I not share its exact elements with any of you. Being as I never met a recipe I couldn’t tinker with, I assured her this would never happen. Luckily, she’ll be moved out and away with her guns before she finds out I passed any of it on. And anyway, her version weren’t chocolate.
The best use of this – another trick she taught me – is to make a batch of waffles up at once, not too crisp, and freeze them. Then every morning you can fish one out, pop it in the toaster in sections, and have a hot breakfast on the go. They’re sweet enough not to require butter or syrup and tasty enough to make a good snack as well.
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Waffles
2 c. flour
3 tsps. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ c. brown sugar
1/3 c. cocoa
1½ c. buttermilk
2 Tbsps. cooking oil
splash of vanilla
½ c. chocolate chips
Turn on waffle iron to recommended setting for waffles. (What other setting could one have? Apparently several, to go by my roommate’s. Your guess is as good as mine.) While it’s heating up, whisk dry ingredients together and beat wet ingredients together. Add wet to dry and mix until just combined. Stir in chips.
Once waffle iron reaches desired temperature, open and spritz both surfaces with a quick shot of nonstick cooking spray. Also give a quick spray to a half-cup-sized measuring cup (it keeps the batter from sticking