Thursday, June 18, 2009

To the Waffle Mobile, Boy Wonder!

I spot the gleaming, canary-yellow truck returning to the office from lunch one day. There sits the renowned Waffle Mobile - right in my own neighborhood. I thought it was nothing but an urban legend.

The very sight makes my pulse race. The Good Humor truck and the Book Mobile feel like prehistoric symbols of transportable goods and services. This 1968 Chevy Box truck is the real deal, bringing authentic Belgian waffles and dinges to neighborhoods all over Manhattan. Founder Thomas Degeest calls himself “Special Envoy for Wafels” with the Belgian Ministry of Culinary Affairs. The truck serves two kinds of authentic Belgian waffles. Dinges is Flemish slang for “whatchamacallits” and refers to the range of waffle toppings available.

I return to my somewhat beige office, but thoughts of the brilliantly-colored Waffle Mobile persist. It rapidly becomes an obsession, so I look for accomplices for a lunchtime expedition. I enlist Zany and Mad Me-Shell, my partners in culinary crime. "We have to go!" says Mad Me-Shell, in her typical “point-me-in-the-direction-of-the-grub attitude. Zany is more reticent. “Aren't waffles for breakfast?” she asks. We first try to explain that waffles are truly appropriate for any meal of the day, and mention the classic combination of Chicken and Waffles. Zany is horrified. This is going to take a little time...

We finally convince her not to waffle and she signs on for the excursion. On the way to lunch our colleague “Marie Antoinette” decides to tag along. It takes her a couple of minutes to tune into truck food etiquette. “Do they take credit cards?" she asks. We are now a quartet of Wafflites in search of sustenance...

We approach the vehicle. “It smells like breakfast,” Zany points out. A helpful young man in a white apron is on duty at the griddle. He smiles down at us from the window, spatula in hand, eyes wide with waffle wonder. I ask if he is the Waffle King, himself. He demurs. He is but a “Waffle King surrogate,” more of a “Waffle Nobleman.” His name is Aimar, and he graciously helps us navigate the wonderful world of waffles. There is the Brussels Wafel – the “mother of all wafels" – which is light and crispy and first served at the 1964 World’s Fair. Then there’s the Liege Wafel, which is soft and chewy. Scanning the menu board, I suspect that the truly authentic spelling of “waffle” drops one “f.” It certainly looks more authentic …

Mad Me-Shell starts with a Mini-Wafelini appetizer …

I order a sweet option - a Brussels Wafel with Strawberries, Banana and Maple Syrup …

Mad Me-Shell goes all bold and savory for her main course – a Brussels Waffle topped with a generous helping of spicy barbeque, cole slaw and a pickled cucumber. Aimar tells us the entrée is so daring it isn’t even on the menu:

Zany gets into an extended conversation with Aimar, quizzing him on the various options for dinges. She finally leaves the truck window carrying an order of Liege Waffle with Nutella, strawberries and bananas. She has made a new friend. “We’re on a first name basis,” she says. “He knows my name is Zany and I call him Waffle Man.”

We adjourn to a nearby public space to stuff our faces. Make that, “dine.” My waffle has a crisp golden exterior and a light and luscious interior. Zany has gone into a pleasant sugar shock with all that Nutella but try as she might, she is having trouble getting out of her three-meals-a-day mindset. “I feel like a little kid, like I shouldn’t be eating this for lunch,” she says. She is also a little perturbed by Mad’s barbecue selection. It just doesn’t feel right to her.

Yet, Mad Me-Shell is having a culinary epiphany, praising her barbeque entrée. She is worshiping the merger of “tart cole slaw, sweet waffle, and spicy meat.” I take a taste and immediately decide to head back to the truck for a second sitting. Aimar sees me coming and smiles. “Don’t be bashful,” he tells me.
Marie Antoinette joins me in an order of barbecue. Always health-minded, she points out that we have enjoyed a very balanced lunch that includes all the major food groups – grains and breads, fruits and vegetables, milk and dairy, and meats. Mom would be so happy to hear that.

We can’t wait for the Waffle Man’s next visit. He has brought a ray of electric-yellow sunshine into our ordinary lives. And, now, we're preoccupied with chasing truck food. We have gleefully discovered there are any number of large vehicles zigzagging across Manhattan and doling out all types of tasty morsels of food. So, the quest continues, but occasionally I'm having these strange urges to crack open an ice cold can of 10W-30 with lunch...
©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

10 comments:

Julia said...

I totally would have gone for the BBQ wafel too! That all sounds so delicious and FUN!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Next time, please order an extra BBQ waffle for me -- it's glorious and incongruous, but I don't care. I will eat every bit of it. I'll pass on the Nutella waffles but there's no denying how beautiful they look. I think chasing truck food could become a full-time obsession.

veron said...

Now you have me craving waffles for breakfast. Funny. I was just lamenting the lack of food trucks in Richmond. I guess not enough walk about traffic for it to be profitable.

~~louise~~ said...

You have the most amazing food excursions T.W. not to mention a colorful cast of food buddies. I've said it before and I'll say it again. You are one lucky "fellow."

I'm not sure I could warm up to the BBQ however, the Nutella Waffles, oh yea!

P.S. I "borrowed" your Double Good Macaroni & Cheese link for my online picnic. Today is Picnic Day! I hope you'll join us...

Debbie said...

I want a waffle mobile in my neighborhood!!
I've never tried Nutella... I should,huh?

we are never full said...

ok, thank you for this post. i pass the waffle car on the w/e in brooklyn often and never think to stop b/c, well, i'm not really a breakfast chick. BUT seeing that bbq and waffel WITH slaw will now have me reconsider. whoa...

Helene said...

I would love a truck like this one in my town. Beautiful waffles, looks so good.

Stacey Snacks said...

Wow, the street food in Manhattan has really escalated to major cuisine in the last few years.
They even have street vendor awards now.

Years ago I bought soup from a little shack on Wooster St. in Soho, before the Seinfeld episode even aired!

Those waffles are beautiful!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

OMG, Why doesn't San Diego have a waffle mobile? Well, I may just have to start one myself.

maura said...

I wouldn't have a problem with the BBQ waffle, either! It reminds me of the waffle hotdog they serve in Fredrikstad, Norway: a Norwegian waffle, which is much thinner and not as crisp as the Belgian, wrapped around a frankfurter and dressed with strawberry jam -- heaven for we who love the savory sweet combination!