Spooky cooking, scary movies

brunch Horror

Celebrating 40 Years of Poltergeist with Pickle Waffles

Poltergeist, directed by Tobe Hooper and written by Steven Spielberg, debuted in 1982 and was an immediate success. 40 years later this month, it’s still delighting and frightening horror fans, and has earned its spot as a true horror classic. It focuses on a suburban family tormented by some sort of malevolent spirits. When their youngest daughter is abducted, they enlist the help of a team of parapsychologists and a medium, hoping for her safe return.

What gives this movie so much heart is the depiction of the Freeling family. It’s true that once little Carol Anne (Heather O’Rouke) is taken, things turn pretty dire, but before that the Freelings are such a fun and lighthearted family that not only love each other, but love each other’s company.

Parents Steven and Diane (Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams) spend their evenings after the kids go to bed smoking a little pot and goofing around sweetly with each other. Oldest daughter Dana (Dominique Dunne), when she’s not hilariously fending off the leering construction workers in her yard, is eating giant pickles straight out of the fridge. And the three kids, including brother Robbie (Oliver Robins), spend the mornings teasing each other and bantering around the breakfast table. Even once the “TV people” arrive, Diane and Carol Anne have a blast experimenting and almost playing with them in the kitchen. 

There is a significant food scene in this movie that occurs the first night the parapsychologists are spending in the family’s home. One of them wanders into the kitchen in the middle of the night, looking for something to eat to fuel the all-night ghost hunting. He chews on a chicken wing as he pulls a steak from the fridge. Soon the steak is inching across the counter and erupting with tumors; he drops his chicken wing in surprise, to find it crawling with maggots. This scene is pretty memorable, and was in consideration for food inspiration. However – it’s pretty unappetizing to say the least!

Instead, I wanted to create something that captured the whimsy and fun of the Freeling family. This recipe draws inspiration from Dana’s pickles, and the waffles that Diane serves the three rambunctious kids around the breakfast table. I’m a big fan of savory pancakes and waffles – I’ve made kimchi pancakes, falafel waffles, latke waffles – and thought this could be a fun and tasty addition to the repertoire.

Poltergeist Pickle Waffles

For the waffles

  • 2 cups cake flour (if you don’t have cake flour, all purpose flour works fine, or to get that “crisp,” use all purpose flour with two tablespoons of each cup removed and replaced)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup pickle juice
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced dill pickles
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, buttermilk, pickle juice, and butter and mix until just combined. Fold in pickles and dill.

Heat a waffle iron, spray with cooking spray if necessary, and cook a ladle at a time, making sure to get pickles fairly evenly distributed.

For the dipping sauce

  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon pickle juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped dill

Mix all ingredients, and serve with hot pickle waffles. They’re here!

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