By Shifra Whiteman
My life changed dramatically during my senior year of college. I always intended on returning to NYC after graduation, but that no longer seemed to be a healthy route. Instead, I decided to be adventurous and move somewhere completely different - Chicago! Why? Why not! I was packing up, moving to a new city and ready to start fresh. I started planning the next step with my best friend, Yonit, whom I’d been living with for 3 years at that point, and her friend from the theater program, Rebecca.
During those few months between graduation and the big move to the Windy City, my sister gave me an amazing birthday gift: a waffle iron. I had always wanted one. Once I actually had it in my hands, I thought about how often I would actually be making waffles and how you can't just make one waffle, the mix makes three at a time…but that didn't matter. I had more important things to think about, like finding a job, learning about Chicago and, most importantly, making friends.
Moving to a new city takes a lot of emotional and physical work. I knew very few people, and most of whom I did know were acquaintances (mostly my roommate’s friends from the theater world). I had one friend from camp and one from my study abroad program, but going out every night, meeting people and keeping it up had drained me. I quickly learned that getting together with people outside of a college atmosphere was incredibly different. Grabbing dinner seemed to blur the lines between hang out or being considered a date. Was meeting up for drinks or coffee about getting to know the other person and become friends, or did it seem like I was fishing for job advice? Giving each person individualized attention felt like I was interviewing or being interviewed over and over again. It reminded me of speed dating when all I really wanted were friends!
Over the first few weeks of unpacking and organizing our new apartment, I took out the waffle iron and made my roommates waffles for dinner. We sat around and ended up talking about meeting each other's friends, acquaintances and people we wanted to get to know better. A party would be too dramatic and costly, but eventually we found a solution. Waffles! And because we love alliteration, we would host these waffle dinners on Wednesdays.
Waffle Wednesdays began as a bi-monthly potluck-ish meal where we provide the waffles and guests bring a topping of sorts to share. Each dinner was given a theme where waffles were always the star of the meal. They started out small but have grown over time. We make grilled cheese waffles with tomato soup, Fawaffles (falafel mix pressed in the waffle iron) and cornbread waffles with chili, to name a few favorites. Not only is the food great and exciting, but all sorts of people come. We invite our friends, everyone we liked at work, people we meet at events, and friends even bring their friends. We noticed that it made it easier to meet or invite people to a casual group evening activity, like Waffle Wednesdays. Instead of speed dating my way to make friends, these dinners helped me and others create friendships organically.
This bi-monthly ritual my apartment started has become a staple within the community we created for ourselves in Chicago. Our friends look forward to it and we love meeting new people in our warm and delicious atmosphere. In the last few months, these dinners have become less frequent due to many reasons, but we still make it a priority to have them somewhat regularly. Waffle Wednesdays helped me transition into a new city and helped me find and shape a community I feel comfortable, excited about and proud to be part of. It's amazing how a simple waffle iron changed my life. I now more than ever hold fast to the words of the great Leslie Knope, "We need to remember what's important in life: friends, waffles, and work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn't matter, but work has to come third."