There were only two situations that made the maternal figure in my life -- we won't mention any names -- resort to profanity. One was when the little knob on the bathtub spigot got left up for "shower spray" instead of down for "bath" and she got splatted on the back with icy water while bending over to turn on her bath.
The other was when the waffles stuck. There we all were every Sunday morning, gathered expectantly around the breakfast table, regarding the waffle iron as if it were a religious icon. At just the right moment the maternal figure would tentatively lift the top of the iron, peeking underneath. Whatever she saw there often made her say bad words.
What she saw was uncooked waffle being rent irrevocably asunder -- one half stuck to the top of the iron, one half to the bottom -- by ill-advised eagerness. This eagerness was encouraged by her waffle iron's little dials and signal lights. We know now that these dials and signal lights were actually agents of deception.
Some things have changed in waffle technology and some things haven't.
What's changed is the interior surface of the waffle iron, which is now almost always coated with nonstick material. It's pretty hard to get a waffle to stick at all to these new irons, let alone so badly that it would have to be discarded.
What hasn't changed is the capriciousness of the dials and indicators.
Consumers Union, in testing electric waffle irons, found that cooks can best control browning by taking charge of their waffle irons instead of vice versa; specifically, by setting their irons to the darkest setting, then timing the waffles, rather than relying on indicator lights. The lights, Consumers Union found, more often indicated the interior temperature of the iron rather than the condition of the waffles. And that doesn't help a whole lot.
Another problem Consumers Union confirmed is the propensity of some irons, even with the best preparation and care, to turn out blotchy waffles that are burned in some places and uncooked in others.
So, to sum up, the ideal waffle maker would be even-cooking (no blotches), and have a minimum of dials and lights but a maximum of dependability.
My candidate for all of the above is not electric at all, but the Nordic Ware "waffler," a simple, lightless, above-the-stove model that works faster than the electric models and turns out evenly browned waffles every time. They don't stick, either.
The Nordic Ware waffler makes Belgian waffles, the kind that are thicker, with deeper wells to catch the syrup, butter and whatever other frills you attach to your waffles. It only makes waffles and doesn't have insertable grids for grilling or for making pizzelle, as some electric models do. It is said that some people don't like the Belgian configuration but, especially if you use a rich, eggy batter, I think the results are better -- a crisp but not thick crust surrounding an evenly cooked, tender interior.
Granted, you can't set this waffler on the table to watch it doing its stuff while you drink your orange juice. And somebody does have to stand at the stove with it. But it's fast and reliable, with one dial -- a dial that actually works -- to tell you when the interior temperature is hot enough for you to add your batter.
You let the Nordic Ware waffler heat for a few minutes over a medium burner -- either gas or electric -- then pour in your batter, close the top, wait a mere 45 seconds or so, then turn it over. It has a nice handle that does not get hot enough to burn.
The other side will require a couple of minutes, the longer time being necessary to cook the waffle through. Even if you cave in to curiosity and lift the top too soon, any structural damage you may have done to the waffle seems to repair itself as soon as you close it again.
To make the second waffle, you just wait another minute or two for the waffler to get back up to speed, then repeat the process. In any case, the waffle will not stick irreparably, especially if you have followed the manufacturer's instructions and brushed it each time with a very little bit of solid shortening. My husband, who is the waffle-maker in the family, uses corn oil instead of solid shortening, and that seems to work just fine. He also reports that he gets the best results if he lets the waffler get just slightly hotter than the "cook" indication the instructions advise.
The manufacturer of the Nordic Ware waffler advises washing it after each use, but we've found that wiping it out with paper towels is sufficient.