From Belgium Onward: A History

Although called “Belgian,” Belgian waffles do not exist in Belgium. There are many similar varieties in that country, but there is not one that is specially called “Belgian.” However, the nomenclature does make sense when you know the history of the waffle.

What Makes a Waffle “Belgian”?

A Belgian waffle is different from other waffles in 5 ways:

  • Large size
  • Large squares
  • Deep pockets
  • Light batter
  • Yeast

Big and filling, most people enjoy Belgian waffles for their deep pockets that hold a lot of syrup or cream. These aren’t the small Eggo waffles you buy at the grocery store. They are fluffy and light and (quite frankly) huge.

A European History

If Belgian waffles do not actually exist in Belgium under that name, why are they called Belgian waffles? The answer is very simple.

Although waffles have been around since the 14th century, Belgian waffles are infants in the culinary scene. Around 1842, Florian Dacher first invented the Brussels Waffle, what can be called the parent of the Belgian waffle. However, it was not until 1958, only 50 or 60 years ago, that the fist Belgian waffles were created by a Belgian man, Maurice Vermersch, and showcased at Expo 58 in Brussels.

Waffles had actually been declining in popularity up until the 1950s, and Vermersch helped bring them back-and to America. His waffles were very successful Expo 58, and he soon took them to the United States. After a moderate success by another salesman at the 1962 World Fair in Seattle, Vermersch rocked the world with these culinary delights at the 1964 World Fair in New York. A legend was born.

The Name

As Americans did not necessarily know a lot about Brussels, Vermersch first called his New York waffles “Bel-Gem.” This soon morphed into “Belgian,” based on the original name and inspiration for the waffle. The waffle also morphed. Today, Belgian waffles are a distinctly North American food, combining attributes from many waffle types from America, Vermersch, and original Brussels waffles.