Until I was 28 years old, I had no idea why wafer cookies/biscuits were so popular. My grandma had quite a sweet tooth, so we always had all kinds of packaged cookies at home growing up. This vast cookie selection included wafer biscuits, which I never really understood. The ones she used to buy always had a weird, cardboard-like texture, seemed semi-stale, and were rarely satisfying in the least bit. The flavor was always muted, some form of vanilla or chocolate, and I always wondered how anyone could think these things were tasty. They seemed like the kind of cookie you’d eat when you were just hungry and needed something to eat, rather than something you looked forward to eating because of how delicious it was.
Then, while in Vienna, Austria, during our European Thanksgiving trip in November 2014, my outlook of the wafer biscuit changed forever. Every market or grocery store we went into had these Manner wafer biscuits on display in this bright pink packaging that was hard to miss. The packaging was simple: bright pink with a picture of the wafer biscuits along with whole hazelnuts, along with the name “Manner” written in cursive letters, with the Vienna Rathaus in the background. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try them, so I bought a few packages. They were also super cheap — one of the few items in Austria at the time I actually thought WERE cheap.
I opened a package and took one bite… and was wowed. Each layer of the wafer biscuit was super thin, very crispy, and the hazelnut flavor was extremely distinct within the chocolate. There’s no way that if you knew what hazelnut tasted like that you wouldn’t know there was hazelnut in those thin chocolate wafers. And in that moment, I realized that it wasn’t that I didn’t like wafer biscuits… it’s that I just never had the opportunity have a REALLY GOOD wafer biscuit. None of the wafer biscuits I’d had to date came even remotely close to how delicious this one was, in both taste and texture. In that moment, I’d had finally had a delicious wafer biscuit — one that I’d be loyal to forever.
Manner has several other flavors for their wafer biscuits, including lemon and coconut, but I’m an originalist with these wafers and prefer the hazelnut. Plus, I just love love all things hazelnut chocolate. I read more about Manner after I had these. While they do distribute to over 50 countries around the world, including the U.S., of course the biscuits cost more elsewhere outside of Austria. To this day, it is still a family-owned company headquartered out of Vienna with another production location in southern Austria. The company is named after Josef Manner, the founder of this delicious version of the wafer biscuit.
So when we did that six-hour side trip to Vienna from Bratislava on Friday, we saw a Manner shop, and I knew we had to go in and check it out. I picked up a few Manner biscuit packages, along with some chocolates you buy by the weight. Although it was a small purchase, it made me so, so happy. Manner made me realize how delicious a wafer biscuit could really be. And that’s really how I see most people’s perspectives on what they like and dislike with food: many times, it’s not that we don’t like X food; it’s actually that we haven’t had the best version of it. That’s my optimistic side when it comes to all things edible.