Dining at Waffle House
By By Robert St. John / food columnist
Nov. 13, 2002
Robert St.John is the executive chef/owner of New South Restaurant Group www.nsrg.com. His weekly food column appears in newspapers throughout Mississippi and Louisiana. If you have any questions or comments he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 601-264-0672.
Wyatt Waters and I have been on the road promoting our new book, "A Southern Palate."
We call it the "Beer Dogs and Palm Trees Tour 2002" (A reference to the only thing Wyatt knows how to cook and the only thing I can draw).
Being on the road is an educational experience. I have learned a lot. For instance, I have learned that driver's education classes have stopped teaching what the left-hand passing lane is for.
I have learned (from readers of this column) that my photograph in the paper looks 20 years older than I actually am or is it the other way around? And I have learned that it is extremely hard to maintain a healthy diet while traveling on the road (not that my diet was that good to begin with). With time constraints, schedules and commitments, it's hard to eat good food all of the time. On the road, convenience and location rule the day.
Enter, Waffle House
Waffle House is a Southern enigma. While on the road, Waffle House is the perfect spot to fill up quickly. They are everywhere and hurried diners can be in and out 30 minutes.
While cruising down the highway, those handsome, backlit yellow-plastic letters appear to glisten like a welcoming beacon high atop a shining hill, calling me gloriously home to the land of the $7 T-bone steak. While inside, the posh, avant-garde and cutting-edge color scheme of yellow, brown and orange always makes me feel warm and cozy.
Eating at Waffle House is also an educational experience. For instance, did you know that there are more than 1,572,864 ways to eat Waffle House hash-browns?
Or that there are 844,739 ways to eat a Waffle House hamburger?
Or that the waitresses at the Waffle House are all fluent in a foreign language? I call it Waffelese.
When speaking Waffelese one must speak in incomplete sentences using a loud, one-word staccato manner: "Over-easy, scattered, smothered and chunked on raisin in two!"
They always seem to fit the word "plate" in every order as if the cook was going to forget to put my food on an actual plate. At the Waffle House, cooks don't refer to tickets; they have to remember everything (maybe that's why they need reminding about putting food on a plate).
It took me years to learn Waffelese. Latin, even Mandarin Chinese, would be a cakewalk compared to Waffelese. Here's a tip: If you throw in a lot of terms like "double plate" and "on two" it sounds like you know what you are talking about.
To break the monotony I sometimes give Waffle House waitresses my order in Waffelese. The first time I gave a waitress an order in Waffelese, I ended up eating a slice of burned raisin toast, a raw egg, a scoop of chocolate ice cream and a side order of patty sausage.
However, nowadays I am fluent in Waffelese. "I would like the bacon, scrambled, cheese, double-plate scattered, please" which is a scrambled egg, bacon and cheese sandwich with two orders of hash browns, scattered. Why the waitresses have to say it this way is another one of life's mysteries. It seems like it would be much easier on the cook if he didn't have to learn a foreign language just to prepare an omelet.
I think, just for kicks and giggles, we ought to spend one day out of every year speaking Waffelese. It would be fun. We could make it a national holiday. We've got Secretary's Day and Arbor Day why not Waffle Day?
All day long, for one day out of every year, we could all speak nothing but Waffelese. Instead of saying "Good morning, Jim. How are the wife and kids? Been playing any golf lately?" we would say "Patty melt, Jim. No onions, cheese grits on a double plate on two. And have a happy Waffle Day."
That's all for today as I must return to my vehicle and continue my scattered, covered, smothered, chunked, topped and diced journey through the state of Mississippi. Make that a double plate on two, please.
The second leg of the book promotion tour kicks off in January.
That leg of the tour will be known as the "15 minutes of Fame Tour 2003." It will take us into Knoxville, Nashville, Chattanooga and Birmingham. Waffle Houses in Tennessee and Alabama beware.
Stay Tuned next week as we take an in-depth and cutting-edge journalistic look into the cultural nuances and musical influences of the Waffle House jukebox.
Fried Dill Pickles
1 jar dill pickle slices, crinkle cut preferably
2 cups milk
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups corn meal
3 tablespoons, Crescent City Grill Creole Seasoning
Heat grease in a cast iron skillet to 360 degrees on a deep fat thermometer. Combine milk and eggs. Combine corn meal and seasoning. Drain pickles thoroughly. Dip the pickles in small batches into the egg wash to coat all slices, then transfer to cornmeal. Gently toss the pickles in the cornmeal until they are fully covered. Fry in small batches until crispy (approximately four minutes). If you fry too many at once the breading will not stick. Drain on paper towels. Fried dill pickles will not hold, so eat them as soon as possible (they become soggy quickly).