There are shortcuts in cooking, but not in faith

Your Life
Michelle DiFranco
March, 2018

On the weekends my kids usually request waffles for breakfast. Not the easy ones you throw into a toaster, but the ones made in a real waffle iron that you have to stand over… for several minutes at a time… and then painstakingly clean afterwards. Don’t get me wrong, as much as I enjoy cooking and baking, I sometimes opt for the shortcut toaster variety, so I can use my weekend to work on other projects.

But recently, my perspective on taking shortcuts in certain areas of my domestic life has changed a little.

While sifting through photos at my parent’s house, I came across an old newspaper article from 1965 titled, “She’s 82 and still building.” It featured a photo of an elderly woman in a woodshop, measuring and marking a piece of wood. In it, she is surrounded by an array of tools, beautiful wood projects and a statue of the Madonna. Undoubtedly, she knew what she was doing based on the look of determination on her face. Fascinated, I read the article only to discover that the woman being featured is my great grandmother.

It’s no surprise that she was written up in the local newspaper. Clearly she was breaking the mold, since DIY carpentry wasn’t a hobby one would expect an 82-year-old woman to be actively involved in. The article explains that her love of carpentry was born from when she needed a storage cupboard in her basement. Her husband and five sons, all carpenters, worked long hours and were not available to do it for her, so she took it upon herself to get it done… by hand. How industrious!

And woodworking was just one of her many passions, according to the article. She was very active in her church and a leader in her local faith community. She loved needlework, gardening, cooking, canning, baking and tending to her acres of fruit trees and raspberries. She states that she’s never been one to “just sit at home and rock.” After reading it, I pondered, where on earth does a mother of 10, grandmother of 34 and great grandmother of nine find the time? I wanted to know more about this superwoman whom I never had the opportunity to meet, but only heard about on occasion from my dad and other relatives.

I began to inquire, and I found myself developing a deep admiration for my great grandmother. Her methods, I have gathered, were authentic. From woodworking, to canning, to baking, to raising ten children, to practicing her Catholic faith … nothing for her was done in shortcuts. She worked tirelessly at everything she did to achieve so much. And joyfully so, from what I gather; the newspaper article pretty much sums that up when she says “Why miss out on the fun, when you can do it yourself?”

Sadly, while her reputation in the kitchen has been passed down through the generations, her recipes have not. Ironically, the only one to have survived is none other than … her homemade waffle recipe. It was saved by my uncle who shared it with me recently. No, they are not the quick and easy toaster variety, but the results are much tastier.

And I guess that’s the lesson I embrace from this woman. Whether in a kitchen, in a woodshop, or in church, the results are much better when we avoid the shortcuts!

Old-fashioned waffles

  • 4 eggs (separated)
  • ½ cup butter (melted and slightly cooled)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2½ cups milk
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt 


In a mixing bowl combine all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt) and set aside. In a separate larger mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks. Add milk, melted butter, vanilla and sugar and continue to whisk. Add sifted dry ingredients to egg mixture and gently stir until combined. Do not overmix. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold in egg whites until combined. Spoon batter into a stove-top waffle griddle or non-stick electric waffle griddle (according to griddle directions). Top off with fruit preserves or maple syrup.