The (Waffle) House always wins: a story of hope, despair, and maple syrup
Hour 0 (6:30 a.m.): The sun barely peeked out from the horizon as my friends and I began our journey to our home for the next 24 hours: a Waffle House.
Any seasoned fantasy football player has probably heard of this challenge (losers often have to do it). The rules are simple: stay at a Waffle House for 24 hours and for each waffle you eat, one hour is deducted off of the total time.
The irony in this challenge is that none of my friends nor I are fantasy football players. WashU juniors Phillip Kim, Jin Park, Kellen Wang, and I, Annabel Shen, thought this would be a fun way to spend our Saturday.
As we pulled up into the parking lot, I could feel nervous energy exuding out of every pore in my body. My mind was racing. Is this place sketchy? Is it packed? How much would I actually be able to eat?
Hour 1 (7:00 a.m.): We enter the restaurant and are immediately greeted with the aroma of eggs and buttermilk. The reality of the next 24 hours hits us. There is no Wi-Fi. There are no outlets. The three foot-long booth allows us to squish in just perfectly. The first waffle deceptively welcomes us. Flavor fatigue has yet to set in. By waffle number two, Kim and Wang begin to laugh nervously, gradually slowing their chewing. Park finishes four while I clean off my fifth.
“If I cut it [the waffle] into smaller pieces, it helps with the illusion of eating less than what I actually am,” Wang said.
Hour 2 (8:00 a.m.): Now, the novelty of waffles is long gone. Kim and Wang’s fourth waffle lies cold and unattended on their respective plates; the former reads a book and the latter tries to get some shut eye. I pass the time by reading “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi. The hustle and bustle of the diner has picked up, with regulars enjoying their Saturday breakfast. Personally, I think I’m doing okay so far. I’ve always had an extreme appetite since I was a kid and waffles, in my humble opinion, are superior to pancakes.
“Let me guess…you guys are attempting the Waffle House challenge? We have not had that in years — good luck!” said our waitress, realizing after our fourth order of waffles that we were not leaving anytime soon.
Hour 3 – 4 (9:00 – 10:00 a.m.): Kim and Wang polish off their fourth waffles and the effects of insulin pumping through our body take effect. Fortunately, we prepared the night before: out of his backpack, Wang pulls packets of digestive enzymes to help reduce the bloating. I brought Settlers of Catan and we played a fun round with Wang claiming a clean sweep victory.
Hour 5 (11:00 a.m.): By this point, my stomach had opened up slightly and the idea of eating some waffles was once again appealing. We each order another two waffles and create a game plan. First, we tried waffles with ketchup. GROSSSS, I know, BUT this immensely aided with cutting back the sugary taste. Second, orders of sausages were placed. The combination of sausage and waffle is legendary — we realize that we are not necessarily full, but rather sick of the carb-heaviness from the waffles.
“I could totally clean another 5 stacks of sausages right now…just…no more waffles,” said Kim.
Hour 6 (12:00 p.m.): The hardest hour, truly. Kim, Park, and Wang were each at six waffles, and I was at seven. At this point in the day, our morale has taken a slight dip. Even if we finish our goal of ten waffles, it would not be until 8:00 p.m. until we could escape. The booths are small and cramped for four people and our conversations have slowly died out. We tried to get as much homework done as we could without any internet, but efforts were mostly fruitless. The hustle and bustle of the diner, the greasiness sticking onto our hair, and the long line of people waiting for a table certainly did not help our case.
Hour 7 (1:00 p.m.): Our friends, who were not partaking in the challenge, decided to come visit us. This is exactly what we needed — a change of pace. I feel a wave of excitement rush over me that I had not felt since the beginning of the challenge.
Prior to coming here, the four of us had watched a YouTube video of a man who attempted the Waffle House challenge. He had completed SEVENTEEN waffles and was able to leave at 3:00 p.m. Looking back at this, we now giggle and scoff at the confidence we had in completing the challenge.
Hour 8 (2:00 p.m.): Slowly, but surely, I begin to regain a bit of stomach capacity. A couple more of our friends arrive and they each order their own respective meals — Texas Bacon Patty Melts and Cheesesteak Melts — the delicious aroma was enticing, but we knew we needed to save our precious stomach space for more waffles. My own personal game plan was to rest a bit more and finish off strong at ten waffles hopefully around 5:00 p.m.
Hour 9 (3:00 p.m.): The waitresses were starting to get angsty and finally came up to us, declaring that they would no longer be able to serve us for the challenge anymore. Unbeknownst to us, they don’t allow these challenges during the weekend due to limited space. After pleading for a few minutes, we convinced them to serve us each our final two waffles. This was definitely a cram for me — I had not anticipated eating this early, but I wanted to finish strong.
Hour 9.5 (3:30 p.m.): My ninth waffle had finally disappeared. This was it. This was the end. I considered ordering one final waffle to go as a statement in reaching my goal of ten, but quickly shut down the idea after I was given the stink eye by one of the chefs.
We left around 4:00 p.m., several hours earlier than anticipated. Although the experience was not exactly what we had envisioned, I would not have wanted anyone else besides me during the challenge. Kim, Park, and Wang motivated and pushed me to finish strong in today’s challenge — they believed in my capabilities as I did in theirs. Overall, I am still shocked and rather impressed with this accomplishment — by no means will we ever attempt this again. NO WAY, NOT A CHANCE. While none of us will be looking at a waffle fondly anytime soon, at least for today, Waffle House became our Waffle Home.
To read about another age-old 24-hour food challenge, see: