When I was a child, my mom had a waffle iron that continuously thwarted her attempts to make us waffles. Easily, it was her arch-nemesis. This was one of those “Defend yourself from thieves and brigands” type waffle makers – all metal, heavy as all get out. My mom would measure out the flour and the other dry ingredients. She’d pour the milk into a glass measuring cup, and she’d stir in eggs and vanilla. The batter was flawless.
While all this was going on, the beastly old waffle maker would be heating up. She’d spray some oil on both sides of it, then say a prayer to St Michael the Archangel (and patron of waffles) to defend her in the battle to come.
OK. She maybe didn’t actually say a prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. And maybe he isn’t actually the patron saint of waffles. But waffles are a traditional food on the Feast of St. Michael, and he’s totally the patron battles, so in my version of this story, this is totally legit.
So back to my childhood kitchen, then.
My mom would pour the batter onto one side of the waffle iron, close the lid, and let it steam. A few minutes later, when the magical waffle-doneness indicator thinger alerted her, she would carefully open the lid. Guaranteed, the waffle would be split in half – one half stuck to the top, and one half stuck to the bottom. She would be exasperated that the waffle iron and her thankless children roped her into trusting the process again. She would pry waffle bits out of the maker, angry the whole time, and eventually I’d gallop off to do the next thing on the day’s agenda. The thing is, though, those crispy split-waffle bits were ah-mazing. SO GOOD! I’d happily eat every crumb of waffle crisps that she would scrape out of that machine.
Eventually she grew tired of the old waffle iron’s (and likely our) nonsense, and she pitched that thing right out the window for St. Michael himself to rescue, and she got a fancy new one. OK, so maybe she didn’t actually throw it out the window, but she did get a new one that she’s much happy with. Alas, no crispy waffle wreckage for us any longer.
This week, one of my social media feeds served up a story that made me think about my mom and her uncooperative waffle maker. In the story, two women are talking about what to make for dinner, and one says that her husband wants chili for dinner, but she didn’t want to go shopping to get the ingredients she’d need and then there’s the hassle of actually making chili. Her friend says, simply, “Make the chili”. Because you never know when you’re not going to have that opportunity any longer. It wasn’t about what they were having for supper, it was about doing something nice for someone you love.
That’s why my mom put up with that cursed old waffle iron. Because we wanted waffles. She loves us, so she made us waffles. Even knowing the grief she’d have scraping the stuck-on batter, and feeling hostile about the success of the waffle-making. She made us waffles. Every single time. Her reward was watching us gobble up those crispy bits, sticky with syrup, not caring that not a single waffle came out with both a top and a bottom.
Lately, I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed. COVID is back on the rise, which I know is partly responsible for my heightened anxiety. But it’s been a busy work cycle with a busy week full of a project with the potential for serious feature creep, and I’ve noticed that at night, I’m the one tidying the kitchen and loading the dishwasher and cleaning up after supper. And I’m the one who does the loads of laundry that contain the dish cloths and towels, and I’m the one who puts the water down for King Louie and walks him and puts him out… And suddenly it felt like I’m doing more than my share of making the household run. Maybe my gentleman associate feels like that too, with a different list of things that he’s done. Maybe he’s struggling against a particularly ferocious bout of insomnia. I don’t know.
I could be resentful about what the household balance looks like, or, I can shoulder a little more right now to help my gentleman associate get through a particularly crunchy week himself. I think I’ll choose the latter. Because sometimes, love is measured with a cranky waffle iron, and sometimes it’s measured by a load of laundry.
Life is short, friends. Make the chili.