To clean your waffle-maker, brush crumbs loose with a paper towel.

When you start making waffles, it is important to develop a relationship with the machine. Read the manual, study how to clean the machine, how to operate it safely and efficiently.

A waffle-maker is a useless machine except for making waffles and other waffle-shaped foods. According to the Internet, any sufficiently soft object can be griddled into a waffle shape.

The first time you use your waffle-maker, you may notice an odor or smoke.

I have found the waffle-making experience frustrating because I have not yet achieved a quality relationship with my waffle-maker. Or as Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, would say, I have not yet achieved a relationship of Quality with my waffle-maker.

Jason Bell’s work has recently appeared in Guernica, Vice, The Brooklyn Quarterly, and Alimentum. He writes a monthly column for Full Stop about food and culture and lives in New Haven, CT, and St. Louis, MO.

Jason Bell’s work has recently appeared in Guernica, Vice, The Brooklyn Quarterly, and Alimentum. He writes a monthly column for Full Stop about food and culture and lives in New Haven, CT, and St. Louis, MO.

I bought a bag of waffle mix that told me to mix the mix with two eggs and a tablespoon of oil, and then to add water until I reached the desired thickness. I had no idea how thick the desired thickness of waffle batter ought to be, so I imagined myself pouring batter into the waffle machine. How slowly the batter would trickle down the lip of the bowl, like wet cement. I added water until the batter looked like wet cement. I poured it into the pre-heated waffle-maker (at this point, it seems more accurate to refer to the machine as an iron), into the pre-heated waffle iron, and shut the lid. Wet cement oozed around the edges. I wiped it off with a paper towel. The red light turned green, I opened the waffle iron, but the waffle stuck. I tried to pry it loose with a plastic spoon but the grid was hot and the spoon started to droop. It was nonstick! I poured in more batter and waited until a thin ribbon of fragrant waffle smoke curled out like a streamer of cottage fireplace smoke in a Thomas Kinkade cottage-scape. I ate that broken waffle with my hands while I made another.

When I went home for Christmas I rummaged around my parent’s basement and found a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. My dad had owned it in college. As I read, I noted two underlined passages. Here’s the Facebook message I sent to my dad about the first passage I found:

ran across underlined passage in zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, maybe the only on one the book: Like those in the valley behind us, most people stand in sight of the spiritual mountains all their lives and never enter them, being content to listen to others who have been there and thus avoid the hardships. Some travel into the mountains accompanied by experienced guides who know the best and least dangerous routes by which they arrive at their destination. Still others, inexperienced and untrusting, attempt to make their own routes. Few of these are successful, but occasionally some, by sheer will and luck and grace, do make it. Once there they become more aware than any of the others that there’s no single or fixed number of routes. There are as many routes as there are individual souls.

Another way of saying this is that there are as many ways to make a waffle as there are waffle-makers and people figuring out how much water to add to the waffle mix to fill all the grids and make a fluffy, tender waffle.

Is the anxiety about social media that pervades our society really about the intrinsic power of social media to distort our lives, or is it about our failure to achieve a relationship of quality to the technology?

Another way of saying this is that I have a lot of anxiety about my waffle-maker because I don’t know how to use it properly — safely, efficiently — but I do like to eat waffles, when they turn out well.

The waffle-maker was a gift from my parents — I suppose at this point I’ve abandoned “iron” altogether — the waffle-maker was a gift from my parents, which I thought was odd because I like pancakes much better than waffles. But I have never heard of a pancake-maker, so maybe they couldn’t find a pancake-maker. It was pointed out to me by a woman I met recently that a pancake-maker might be called a griddle, but that seemed entirely wrong.

Here’s the message I sent about the second underlined passage:

ran across second marked passage:

Or if he takes whatever dull job he’s stuck with — and they are all, sooner or later, dull — and, just to keep himself amused, starts to look for options of Quality, and secretly pursues these options, just for their own sake, thus making an art out of what he is doing, he’s likely to discover that he becomes a much more interesting person and less of an object to the people around him because his Quality decisions change him too. And not only the job and him, but others too because the Quality tends to fan out like waves.

I fantasize about placing flesh in the waffle-maker, because waffle shaped burns are aesthetically pleasing. That would make the waffle-maker very difficult to clean.

^That sentiment was disturbing so I crossed it out.

I would like to improve my relationship with this waffle-maker. If I could make a decent waffle, no, a good waffle, the kind of waffle that has a crispy, tanned skin and a soft crumb that soaks up butter and syrup but stays really crunchy, if I could make that kind of waffle consistently, I think I would know how to achieve Quality in respect to the other technologies that define the activity and labor of my life.

Perhaps this problem of how to make a good waffle is connected with how we talk about food and responsibility. Eating locally, sustainably, and so on and so on. But most of that talk is in denial of how intertwined our food system is with the technology of corporate and industrial agrobusiness. And how hopeless that situation will remain as global population growth accelerates and the demand for oil and eggs and waffles and the butter and syrup that go on waffles accelerates, and the maple trees creep farther and farther north as it gets warmer and warmer until we don’t have any syrup and the cows explode in great bursts of milkfat and black and white cowhide and udders. At this point, we might as well focus on how to make a good waffle.

The paper towel technique isn’t working for me, there are a lot of crumbs stuck in the cracks, so I shake the machine upside down. They’re not coming out. The crumbs are wedged into the crannies. It was nonstick.


 

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