Pretzels - Starting with a distinctive knotted shape to their only salty, savory taste, there’s nothing quite like a tasty pretzel. Whether hard, soft, coated in yogurt or chocolate or dipped in mustard, pretzels may truly be the world’s most perfect snack. And, we would have it, they’re one of the most richly interesting and historic foods around.
Pretzels are twisty history
While no one knows who was the first person that decided to mix water, flour, and salt to create the first pretzel, we do know it happened a long time ago. The NYT reported that a fifth-century manuscript found in the Vatican includes what could be the first-ever description of the salty snack.
However, most food historians believe pretzel baking began around 610 A.D. “A monk in Italy is believed to have been toying around with leftover dough from bread baking and twisted it to resemble the crossed arms over the breast of a person in prayer.“This was a familiar form of praying in those days, and pretzels were regularly baked in that shape became popular treats or incentives for people to say their prayers.”
Bracellae also known as “little arms” a term that became the foundation for the German word for pretzels, “brezel.” Other language experts say these early pretzels were named little rewards. And became a treat, and known as luck when given a surprise to little children.
Pretzels and symbolism
Because they were inexpensive to make and kept easily, pretzels were often distributed to the poor. They came to be seen as a symbol of good luck, prosperity, and spiritual fulfillment.
The three holes represent the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Traditional pretzel shapes have also taken on religious meaning over the years.
By the 16th century, children commonly hung pretzels on both Christmas trees and around their necks on special occasions, German even hid tiny pretzels on Easter, an early version of modern Easter egg hunts.
In the 17th century, the pretzel became synonymous with marriage. the pretzel’s interlocking loops also came to symbolize undying love. One possible origin of the phrase “tying the knot.”
Stopped a war
It has been said that the Ottomans were once plotting to invade Vienna. Some monks that were up late baking pretzels herd them, and alerted the authorities, thus adverting a war!
Hard pretzels an American invention
The Pilgrims are notable for bringing beer with them on the Mayflower. But they also brought pretzels, a snack to eat with their beers.
They were treated as a currency and trade for colonists meeting the countries. As an increasing number of German immigrants moved to the United States and began settling in the area now known as Pennsylvania, pretzels became an American flavor.
In 1861, a 26-year-old baker named Julius Sturgis founded the country’s first commercial pretzel bakery in the tiny town of Lititz, located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The decision made good business sense. His crispy salted snacks could be stored in airtight containers, where they kept remarkably well. Today, an estimated 80% of all pretzels made and sold in the U.S. come from the Keystone State.
Whether you prefer your pretzels in nugget, rod, or classic twist form, there’s a virtually endless bounty of pretzels out there to try. For thoes who like their pretzels filled with peanut butter or coated with yogurt, peppermint, chocolate, butter toffee, or a little bit of everything, pretzels provide the perfect combination of salty and sweet that so many of us crave. And pretzels and cookies make a dynamite combo. Pretzels are also the perfect addition to other foods.
According to Bakes association, the pretzel industry in America today is valued at $1.3 billion a year.
“This equates to approximately 486.6 billion pretzels sold annually,” she says. Research shows the average American consumes an estimated two pounds of pretzels annually. But the City of Brotherly Love goes above and beyond in its love of pretzels. The average citizen in Pennsylvania’s largest city wolfs down a remarkable 12 pounds of pretzels per year!
As Kramer famously repeated on that classic episode of Seinfeld…that’s enough pretzels to make anyone thirsty.