Marc Alongi, the director of Sequoyah’s high school, is known for his waffles, which he serves during the exciting and stressful Talking Leaves days. Talking Leaves is Sequoyah’s equivalent of a “finals” week, where students draw on a topic from one of their classes, examine it, and then create an in-depth presentation about it. About mid-way through the Talking Leaves presentation days, at lunch, Alongi hands out medium-sized waffles on a paper towel with syrup and occasional toppings. Most of the student body rushes to get in line for waffles, one of the treats of Talking Leaves week. Sequoyah’s waffle-making tradition bears investigating. How are the waffles made? How are they served? And most importantly: why waffles?
Although the tradition of serving waffles has stood the test of time, the waffles served during the fall semester of 2022 differed in topping choices and batter consistency from the previous Talking Leaves of 2021 and 2022. Mateo Rodriguez ’25 noted that this year “they had some sort of whipped cream pumpkin-flavored type thing…I was not vibing with it.” Kate Schafer, a science teacher at Sequoyah’s high school similarly noted “there was some very strange whipped cream that was like an orange color. That was a little bit odd.” On the bright side, the pumpkin whipped cream, according to Alongi, was a one-time thing.
The waffles last year also had a smoother batter, which nicely complemented the classic toppings available. Rodriguez added that “what distinctly changed the waffle batter from last year to this year is [that] this year’s waffles tasted more…bready.” Not only were the topping choices different, but Rodriguez believes there could have been some sort of batter change. Alongi’s waffles did in fact have a batter change this school year. Alongi said that they were “running out of batter, and we had to make a couple of extra trips to the grocery store to get more batter,” so they ended up using whatever batter they could find at the grocery store. It seems that the batter and toppings were less favorable this school year than the syrup from last year’s spring Talking Leaves.
Looking ahead to future Talking Leaves seasons, new possibilities await. Alongi wondered if maybe “we need a whole toppings table?” So perhaps we will see some more options next year. According to a poll of 21 Sequoyah high school students, strawberries and maple syrup are the most popular toppings.
While waffles may seem quick and easy to make, serving roughly 180 students (assuming everyone gets waffles, plus seconds) can prove to be a challenge, and location is key. During any school day, and especially during Talking Leaves weeks, students are rushing around and chatting throughout breaks. Where Alongi serves the waffles affects the flow of the student body. Rodriguez noted, “I think the issue [this school year] was that they set up the waffle-like stand area inside this time and in a hallway where people were already walking through right next to the bathroom” whereas last year there were “decent-sized breaks and it was outside…I think, and there were also a large amount of pre-made waffles.” There were also some electricity complications last year with multiple waffle irons being plugged into a power strip, according to Alongi. Still, in this school year’s Talking Leaves, that was fixed.
Notwithstanding unexpected mishaps and complications, the waffle tradition remains a sweet treat for Sequoyah students, especially because students can see that the director is directly involved in the school community. Rodriguez noted that this routine is “really cool, like community bonding” and a “special tradition. Essentially, the value is sort of like a morale boost.” Schafer noted, “It’s always fun and enjoyable to serve food.” This is a special moment for the administration as well as the students to bond through food. Alongi added that Talking Leaves are “culminating moments in the student experience” and that “to have it feel more celebratory is important to us.”
Of available breakfast foods, waffles may be one of the best options due to convenience, although a sugary breakfast treat doesn’t fit everyone’s fancy. Students and teachers alike agree that in this case, waffles are better than pancakes. Although waffles vs. pancakes is a question that has long been debated, waffles take the win for Talking Leaves. Alongi noted that the administration was, “having a conversation in the office about doing something fun, and I think we were asking around if it would be better to have leaf-shaped pancakes” or waffles. They ended up going with waffles because, as Alongi said, there is “something appealing about something that was freshly cooked.” Plus, pancakes are logistically more challenging. Schafer added that “pancakes are a lot harder because of the labor, the need for surfaces and pans.” Rodriguez mentioned that you can simply “put a waffle in the waffle maker, you take it out, it’s done. With a pancake, you have to put the batter in, you have to wait”. Essentially, waffles are the better option.
Although these waffles may have their ups and downs, serving around 180 kids is no easy task, especially in a short-ish time frame, so kudos to all the servers and the waffle makers! Talking Leaves continues to be a celebration of students’ knowledge, and waffles are a welcome addition to the festivities.