The waffles are here!

The waffles are here!
Bruges be praised, the waffle truck has come to Brooklyn!
Christopher Mulhare

There would be no real Belgian waffles in Park Slope if not for Cynthia Wang’s e-mail message. “Dear waffle truck,” she wrote. “Please come out to Park Slope. We won’t care if you double-park, everyone does it! God knows the babies and stroller-moms would gobble them up. Help a freelance designer out, save me from boring soft-serve ice cream and bagels. … Bring me the waffles au’ Belgique!”

Then came the swift reply from Thomas DeGeest, owner of the Wafels & Dinges truck:

“Dear Cynthia, I have good news for you. The Belgian Ministry of Culinary Affairs has just agreed to accept your application for the position of Special Wafel Envoy to Brooklyn. That means that you are now in charge of planning the first visit of the Wafels & Dinges truck to Brooklyn, more specifically to Park Slope. We’ll come with the truck; you line up the moms, dads, babies and strollers and keep Mr. Softee at a safe distance.”

Thanks to this e-mail exchange, I came across the brilliant yellow “wafelmobile” at the PS 321 flea market last Saturday. In a flash I was back in Paris, where my daughter and I feasted on crepes served from just such a truck at the local brocante (that’s French for flea market).

There is something special about watching your very own waffle cooking right in front of you, smelling the fragrance of the sweet batter, and then eating it immediately — especially when it’s bit cold outside. There were even two different kinds to choose from: the Brussels wafel (crunchy and light) or the Liege wafel (chewy) and many different toppings, or “dinges” (a Flemish word that roughly translates to “whatsit” or “whoosit”). I practically bit the man’s fingers off as he handed me my waffle.

That man turned out to be Thomas DeGeest and, according to him, the last time New Yorkers had a real live, genuine Belgian waffle was in 1964, when the wafel was introduced at the Belgian pavilion at the World’s Fair.

What we ignorant New Yorkers think of as a “Belgian waffle,” served ubiquitously by most diners, is actually just regular pancake batter poured into a round waffle form. Frauds, all of them — and a poor excuse for the real thing, according to DeGeest. His waffles are comprised of a genuine Belgian recipe and are, furthermore, definitely square-shaped, not round.

Until just a few months ago, DeGeest, a Belgian native who moved here in 1997, was lost in the corporate world, helpless to put the imposter waffles in their place. For years, he worked for IBM as a management consultant. “I traveled a lot on my job, to all 50 states,” he says. “I experienced a lot of sub-standard waffles everywhere I went.”

He threw all of that away and threw himself into making waffles. In no time, his Wafels & Dinges truck was doing a brisk business at various Manhattan sites, until Wang’s e-mail plea lured him to Park Slope last December. It turned out to be one of his most lucrative days.

Now he’s made a commitment to come to the Slope every first Saturday of the month (although the next stop is Feb. 9, so he can travel to Belgium for his mother’s birthday) and says he is open to suggestions for other Brooklyn stops.

I thought he should pull up right in front of my house, but he didn’t think that would be a good business move.

Clearly, he doesn’t know my capacity for eating waffles.

The Wafels & Dinges truck will be back in Park Slope on Feb. 9. To find out the exact location, visit the Web site, www.wafelsanddinges.com.

Wendy Ponte is a writer living in Park Slope.

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