By Lisa Marie Corso
Coming home after school it was always a race to the pantry and fridge followed by a quick mental checklist. Bread. Check. Cheese. Check. Tomato. Check. This winning trifecta has kept Australian kids’ stomachs satiated since the 1970s because these three simple ingredients combined make up the ultimate post school snack: the jaffle.
The ritual of jaffle making is marked with the earliest sign of childhood independence. Here our parents let us run amok in the kitchen for the first time unsupervised and encouraged us to cook for ourselves. We graduated from making crackers with Vegemite and butter to the gastronomical experience of cooking hot food with an actual kitchen appliance.
All we needed was two slices of plain white square bread smeared with butter and an imagination. No filling combination was impossible if you had enough upper arm strength to clamp the jaffle maker closed once you’d stuffed the sandwich of your dreams. A dream made possible by one Australian man: John O’Brien.
John O’Brien never cut the crusts off his sandwiches and not because he wished for chest hair but because he respected them too much. He devoted much of his life to them and the toasted sandwich would be forever immortalised because of him. As the son of Breville co-founder Bill O Brien, John was passionate about creating accessible appliances that eased domestic life, and on one successful research trip through Europe he acquired the rights to commercialise what would become the first electronic jaffle maker.
Breville’s Original 1974 Jaffle Maker was a hit. It was the first proper electronic jaffle maker of its kind ready for domestic use. You just plugged it in and waited for the red light to turn green or if you were impatient waited for the sound of sizzling butter for instant toasted sandwich gratification. In its first year in production 400,000 units sold within Australia, and similar success was met when it hit New Zealand and England in 1975.
Today over six million people globally own Breville’s Jaffle Maker with its unique diagonally bisected hot plates that clamp together to seal traditional, inventive and sometimes downright questionable fillings and we have John O’Brien to thank. So next time you bite into a piping hot cheese and tomato jaffle and scold your tongue know that the taste of nostalgia never cools down because it’s food for thought. And it’s delicious.