Sunday, March 2, 2008

Catfish and waffles

Valley Green Inn, Saturday afternoon, around 2:30.

In the middle of the 1800s, as the Wissahickon became a popular destination for tourists and day trippers out from the city, several road houses sprang up to cater to their desires for a meal or a drink. Only two of these buildings exist today: Wissahickon Hall, which now serves as the headquarters for the 14th police district, and Valley Green Inn, which is still a restaurant. A favorite dinner of the day was something called "catfish and waffles."

Catfish and waffles began with fried catfish and a relish. A steak of beef followed, with fried potatoes, generally a simple form of what we know now as hashed brown. Then came stewed chicken and the waffles. And after the chicken and the waffles, the coffee. Dessert was served at some places, too, but not invariably. As a veteran of many bouts with catfish and waffles said to me, You more often had ‘catfish and waffles’ with a wink than with a dessert. For my part I liked beer with ‘catfish and waffles.’ Catfish is a rich fish. It is fried in butter. That makes it richer. Good steak has streaks of fat through it, and there is butter in hashed-brown potatoes. Stewed chicken with gravy is rich too, even if the waffles sop up a good deal of the gravy. Coffee is not enough to settle such a dinner. You need a good hoppy beer. I know those liked a sour wine, a Rhine wine or the like. The trouble with such was that it took too much of it, and it came high. You wouldn't want whiskey after ‘catfish and waffles.’ Beer was the thing to settle it. It would do the trick.
-- The Wissahickon Hills, Cornelius Weygandt, 1930

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