1882: Fransisca Fincent was married three times, was twice widowed and had 10 children. She had five children with her first husband, François de Fonseca, a Spanish nobleman and two with her second man, Felix Vandepitte, a miller who hailed from Aalter. She had three more children with her third husband, Louis De Vos. De Vos was also a miller, while Fransisca ran an inn. The local farmers often used the inn as a waiting room while their flour was being milled. They would pay the miller with two scoops of milled flour from each bag. Fransisca used to flour to bake bread, which she served with smoked ham, cottage cheese or a farm omelette in her inn.
Her children called Fransisca “Moeder Siska” or Mother Siska and soon everyone adopted this moniker. One day, Siska, who was visiting Amsterdam, saw a painting of a heart-shaped waffle iron consisting of four hearts. She asked her brother-in-law, who was a smith in De Pinte, to make her a waffle iron with five hearts. This meant that if she baked two waffles she had a heart for every one of her children. Siska’s waffles became the family’s favourite birthday treat.
Notaries also used Mother Siska’s inn to organize public sales. One day a notary from Antwerp tasted the waffles of Mother Siska’s children and he immediately asked to organise a waffle feast for his daughter. The party was a huge success! It also marked the start of the on-demand sale of waffles.
Mother Siska’s inn soon also became the favourite place to go for tourists from Heist. A horse and cart were available to take people to and from the fishing village. Ten years later, in 1892, the inn also started serving its specialty without prior reservation. As a result of the growing crowds of waffle lovers, the inn had to be expanded however. Trestle tables were added in the garden and Mother Siska bought a lot of folding chairs from a bankrupt circus. We used these chairs until 1987 and we still have them in storage. Mother Siska’s sons baked waffles over a wood fire while her daughters waited tables. In wintertime the children would work in Wallonia, where they improved their command of French in order to better serve the chiefly French-speaking clientele.
Mother Siska’s waffle house was such a hit that two of her sons and three of her daughters opened a second waffle house, “Bij de kinderen Siska” on Oosthoekplein in 1907. Her youngest daughter, Marie was about to follow their example in 1914 when the First World War started. Mother Siska died in 1918 of the Spanish flu and thus did not live to see the opening of the third Siska waffle house.
Marie had gained her experience from working with her mother and sisters and was determined that the third Siska would be the largest, most beautiful and well-located business of them all. In 1919 she opened “Bij de dochter Siska”, which was renamed “Marie Siska” one year later.
Her youngest brother followed in her footsteps in 1923, opening “Gustave Siska”. One of Mother Siska’s granddaughters opened the fifth Siska waffle house in 1936 in St. Idesbald, near Koksijde, called “Siska du Zoute” which, of course, was a reference to the famous waffle house in Knokke’s Zoute district.
The Siska waffle houses continued to expand until well after the Second World War, contributing to the tourist development of Het Zoute. Unlike their mother, only a few of Siska’s children went on to marry. Marie Siska had two children. Her son, Urbain Dossche, took over the waffle house in 1949, with his wife, Georgette Marie. His sister, Germaine Dossche, bought Kinders Siska from her aunts.
Urbain and his wife set about expanding Marie Siska. They added a miniature golf course and changed the menu turning the waffle house into a restaurant. Marie Siska became a well-known local eatery, in Belgium but also abroad. The stars who performed at Knokke’s Casino always dropped in at Marie Siska for one of their delicious waffles. Paul Anka, Josephine Baker, Martine Carol, Ava Gardner, Gilbert Bécaud, Etchika Choureau and The Platters are but a few of the famous patrons who made the trek to the waffle house over the years. Marie Siska also had the honour of welcoming King Leopold III and Queen Astrid, who owned a country estate in the Zwin. After the war the king still regularly stopped by for some waffles after a round of golf with his friends. He would sit in a separate room and the staff referred to his table as the “King’s table”. You can still eat at this table today.
In 1967, Marie Siska was completely rebuilt, except for the waffle bakery. A restaurant with 450 seats inside and 550 outside replaced the old waffle house. In 1987 Siska’s grandson, Stefan Dossche and his wife Nathalie took over at the helm. They also invested heavily in the business’ improvement. A hotel with seven luxurious rooms was added. The play area was completely refurbished and Marie Siska underwent a real metamorphosis. Today, the new generation of royals also visits Marie Siska for waffles and for many Marie Siska has become “the reference point” of Het Zoute. In season, the waffle house sells more than 1,000 freshly-baked waffles every day and the chefs still use Siska’s secret recipe. The restaurant has also become an important part of the business. The miniature golf club is sponsored by clothing brand River Woods and organises a golf tournament every August for children. It is the perfect place for a fun afternoon.
The parental home, “Moeder Siska” was sold and demolished in 1975. Fortunately the mill was saved and it is now used as a residence. Gustave Siska was sold two years after its opening due to illness. In 2009 it was demolished to make way for a house. The Siska waffle house in Sint-Idesbald was sold in 1960 but is still operational. Finally, the owner of Kinders Siska sold his business to a realtor in 2011.
Today Marie Siska is the only waffle house which sells the original Siska waffles and which is managed by Siska’s descendants.
In 2012 we celebrate the 130th anniversary of Siska waffles. The fifth generation, in the person of Marie-Julie Dossche has just come on board and we hope that she will help perpetuate this tasty tradition of Het Zoute.
Stefan, Nathalie and Marie-Julie Dossche