Food and Drinks

Matt Preston delves into the delicious history of the jaffle

The allure of melting melted cheese is what really started toasties. Cheese-loving Swiss cowherders used to carry cheese up the mountains when moving their herds. As the cheese was toasting, they would scrape it onto the bread. In the 16th century, this dish was made at home, eventually becoming the Swiss national dish raclette.

In the 18th century in Britain, toasting forks with both prongs to toast the bread and a bracket for holding the cheese over the flames were invented. However, it wasn’t until 100 years later that the French gave us the first real toastie – the croque monsieur – where a Gruyere-cheese-and-ham sandwich was cooked in a pan until the cheese melted and the bread turned golden.

Michel Lunarca, owner of Le Bel-Age on Boulevard des Capucines in Paris, introduced the dish to the menu around 1911. It is literally translated as a “crunchy” man, earning Michel the nickname of “cannibal” by his rivals.

It wasn’t until 1925 that the first true-toasted sandwich maker was patented in the US. Charles Champion invented the Tostwich.

This history is challenged by the culinary rivalry that exists between France and Italy. Italians like to brag that they taught France how to eat and cook with forks during the 16th century when Catherine de Medici and her court came to France to marry French people. They also claim to have invented the cheese toastie. They cite a 1560 recipe in Domenico Romoli’s cookbook, La Singular Dottrina, which is a guide for eating and cooking. In his instructions for the panto, a precursor to the panino, he says that the bread is toasted in a pan covered with butter and then fried until it melts. Then, it’s sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon and rosewater. This is a toastie without the second piece of bread.

The toastie is also older than the sandwich, if we believe that the sandwich, invented in 1762 by the Earl of Leicester, was originally intended as a snack for mid-cards.

In the US, cast-iron waffle irons and baking dishes became so popular in the 19th century that the trend of “toast pie” containers was born. Pie irons, “Tonka Toasters,” and pudgy pie ovens were all part of the trend. They could be lined with buttered toast and filled to your heart’s content before being placed over a fire until sealed and piping hot. It is much older to use a metal plate with a hinge that you can press and sandwich batter together in order to make waffles or communion wafers. One of the four recipes in the Le Menagier de Paris from 1393 contains grated cheddar in its center. Is this the first toastie you’ve ever had?

It wasn’t until 1925 that the first true-toasted sandwich maker was patented in the US. Charles Champion invented the Tostwich.

A Bondi doctor at the Little Bay Hospital gave toasties in Australia the name “jaffle.” Dr Earnestsmithers patented his Jaffle Iron in 1949. Within a year, Edgell’s was advertising canned spag-bol as “a new line for the Jaffle Iron.”

Breville distributed a Belgian model, but due to inconsistencies with the supply, they decided to create their own. If Australia loved jaffles, then they were enthralled when Breville introduced its electric Snack’n’Sandwich Toaster to the market in 1974. In one year, they sold 400,000 units. The UK and New Zealand soon followed suit. It was the metal ridges on the edges of the jaffle that were the genius. They split the jaffle in half.

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