In the 1,400 years since the pretzel was invented, bakers have come up with a wide variety of shapes and flavors. The history of this adaptable snack shows its versatility.
world can thank a frustrated teacher with leftover bread dough for the
invention of the soft pretzel. In A.D. 610, while baking bread, an Italian
monk decided to create a treat to motivate his distracted catechism
students. He rolled out ropes of dough, twisted them to resemble hands
crossed on the chest in prayer, and baked them. The monk christened his
snacks pretiola, Latin for "little reward." Parents who tasted
their children's classroom treats referred to them as brachiola, or
"little arms." When pretiola arrived in Germany,
they were called bretzels.
because of its religious roots, the pretzel has long been considered a
good-luck symbol. German children wear pretzels around their necks on New
Year's Day. In Austria
in the 16th century, pretzels adorned Christmas trees, and they were
hidden along with hard-boiled eggs on Easter morning.
phrase "tying the knot" came from the Swiss, who still
incorporate the lucky pretzel in wedding ceremonies. Newlyweds
traditionally make a wish and break a pretzel, in the same way people in
other cultures break a wishbone or a glass.
- In Austria,
signs outside many bakeries depict a lion holding a pretzel-shaped shield.
According to a legend that dates to 1510, pretzel bakers working before
dawn heard Ottoman Turks tunneling under Vienna's city walls and then sounded an
alarm. The city was saved, and the bakers were awarded their unique coat
of arms by the Viennese king.
pretzels were "invented" in the late 1600s, when a snoozing
apprentice in a Pennsylvania
bakery accidentally overbaked his pretzels, creating crunchy, seemingly
inedible, knots. His job was spared when the master baker, attempting
admonishment, took an angry bite out of one--and loved it.
Sturgis opened the first commercial pretzel bakery in Lititz, Pennsylvania,
in 1861. He received his original pretzel recipe as a thank you from a
down-on-his-luck job seeker after Sturgis gave the man dinner.
the 1930s, pretzels were handmade, and the average worker could twist 40 a
minute. In 1935, the Reading Pretzel Machinery Company introduced the
first automated pretzel machine, which enabled large bakeries to make 245
pretzels per minute, or five tons in a day.
than $550 million worth of pretzels are sold in the United States annually; 80 percent are made
where hard pretzels originated.
- The average
citizen consumes up to two pounds of pretzels per year, but Philadelphians
snack on about 12 pounds of pretzels per person every year.
then there's Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, the 2007 World Pretzel-Eating
Champion, who ate 21 soft pretzels in ten minutes.
George W. Bush was munching on a pretzel in the White House when he choked
and lost consciousness while watching the 2002 Baltimore-Miami NFL
bakers may have been the first to advertise "We deliver!" Medieval street
vendors carried pretzels on a stick and sold them to the locals. Today,
soft pretzels remain a popular pushcart item in Philadelphia
and New York City.
Nacchio, of Federal Baking in Philadelphia,
holds the rec-ord for baking the largest pretzel: It's 5 feet across and
weighs 40 pounds.