Great-Grandma Josephine’s Norwegian Waffles (Vaffler)
As I sat next to her yesterday on the aubergine leather sofa, the water of Puget Sound placid outside the window behind her, I studied how the afternoon light fell across her profile and how the shadows formed where age has carved deep crevices in her skin. At 95 years old, Grandma Adeline’s face reveals almost a century of experience. And she is beautiful.
I longed to take a photo, to capture that moment and the light and the wrinkles and everything I was feeling that I couldn’t fully comprehend. Now, a day later, I think I understand. I wanted to grasp something that is fading, to preserve her as she is. I want her with us forever, to know that those wisps of white hair—as delicate as the spun glass “angel’s hair” that she would use to decorate her house at Christmastime—will always be there to tickle my wrist when I sit with my arm around her. Each time I give her a hug goodbye, I pause to absorb the way her hunched back and shoulders feel in my arms. Just in case this time might be the last.
Things look a lot different these days in my relationship with Grandma. We’ve moved from the kitchen counter to the sofa. The hands that once kneaded dense potatoes into lefse dough now almost quiver as she tickles my delighted baby. But now, a year after the strokes, her signature spark is finding its way out of its tangled brain and frail bones. She can still charm a baby, after all.
I brought the kids up to visit Grandma Adeline yesterday, just a quick visit between naps. Grandma doesn’t eat much these days, but I brought her Norwegian waffles. Her mother’s waffles.
We used to bake them together, the recipe being handed down from generation to generation. My memories of Grandma are filled with platters of these little heart-shaped waffles decorated with jam or geitost (brown goat cheese). They were one of her signature dishes, along with lefse, sandbakkels, potato dumplings, peanut bars, and any number of Norwegian Christmas cookies. In my memories, I can’t separate Grandma from the food that she served.
That was how she loved us. With butter and cream. Bowls of ruby raspberries, fresh from the garden, dusted with sugar and drenched in cream like white satin. Dense balls of potato dumplings served with ham and root vegetables and a bottle of light corn syrup for good measure. Strawberry malted milks blitzed together in the blender with ice cream. And of course, waffles.
We don’t talk much anymore, don’t have much we can really say these days—not since the strokes. But I listen with my whole heart when she says, holding my hand, “I love you. I really, really love you.” Mom listens when Grandma tells her, “love you, love you, love you.” When Grandma says those words, we hear the ache of a heart that’s pleading with us to understand something deeper than she is now able to articulate. Though I am a writer, I now realize that words are sometimes just words, placeholders for something bigger, something deeper. We don’t have to talk much. We just have to be there, sitting beside her, reminiscing and remembering, and communicating with our own hearts too.
A photo would have broken the moment. But I captured one in my memory, and I’ve been replaying it today. I think about how our culture celebrates smooth skin and talks about wrinkles as something to be treated. I shake my head as I even write that, because I love every one of those creases in my grandmother’s face. They tell a story. They’ve deepened, I think, in the year since the strokes. But they’re real, she’s real. She’s here with us. I wouldn’t change a thing. She is beautiful.
Great-Grandma Josephine’s Norwegian Waffles with Cardamom (Vaffler)
I’ve written about these before. And I probably will again. The difference this time is the cardamom. If you like the spice, this is probably the ideal amount. If you don’t, just leave it out.
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat eggs in a separate bowl, then add to the butter and beat until smooth. Mix in buttermilk and milk. Sift together flour, cardamom, baking powder, and baking soda and mix into the batter to combine.
Bake using a heart-shaped waffle maker and serve with geitost or lingonberry preserves.
You’re so right as a photograph would have been intrusive in that moment. I love what you wrote about the wrinkles and such. I often make Norwegian waffles in my heart shaped grill like yours. The smell of cardamom makes me think of home.
Beautiful words. Thank you for sharing her – and the recipe for these waffles. My name day is coming up and I will use this recipe for the party, I think. Takk!!
Lovely, lovely post. Blessings to you and your grandmother.
I saw this recipe on Tasteologie, beautiful waffles! I need to try this recipe. I’m norwegian, but I’m not very good at making waffles. I really should do it more often :p Nice blog you have 🙂
My favorite line of this well written love story is “That was how she loved us. With butter and cream.” Thank you for the recipe and God bless your Grandmother.
Thank you for your precious recipe and your beautiful words. For about 8 years I’ve played scrabble twice a week with my dear friend who is 92 years young. She will move very shortly to be with her daughter about 2 hours away. Your description of your grandmother is so close to how I feel about Alice. Thank you for speaking the words I didn’t know how to articulate. Wishing you and your family peace and happiness.
anna maria olsson
My mom made these, then I carried on the tradition and now my daughter. There is nothing like them. We celebrate Waffle Day, March 25th every year.
What a sweet story! It reminds me of my Bestemor. She lived to be 101! I make her Norwegian Christmas cookies every year and remember her and our times together as I do it. God Jul!
Would you please send me the cardamom waffle recipy?
That was the most beautiful story, Daytona! I too have many strong memories of waffles with my aunts in Norway (not so much my mother in SF, who wanted to be “American”) and this recipe is slightly different but I am going to make it tomorrow. I LOVE cardamom!
Thank you for sharing a lovely story with us. Grandma memories are very precious.
Tusen tack for opening your heart and sharing your grandmother with us. You gave us a special gift. I am eager to try the recipe, too!