Legend of the Pretzel

When did Pretzels Originate? How did Pretzels get connected with Culture and Religion? How did Flavourful Pretzels & Hard Pretzels evolve with time?
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You can hardly count the number of sweet pastry dishes available across the world today. But that doesn’t mean you cannot discover a new one. Since pretzels are my favorite, I tried to uncover several stories of their origin. What could be the legend of the pretzel and where do pretzels come from? Read below to find out!

1. What is Pretzel?

Pretzel is a baked pastry in a shape that looks like folded hands of children in prayers. It has a cracker-like flavor along with a crisp texture and a brown glossy color on its surface. It has salt crystals sprinkled on it to make the sweet taste more appealing. (Also read Is Nougat Healthy?)

2. Where do Pretzels Come from?

The most famous folk tale about the origin of pretzels is from Italy in 610 where a monk from Italy prepared pretzels as a reward for kids as they learned their prayers. It is also believed that some monks and bakers were forced to make pretzels while they were held hostages in Germany. There are many theories about its place of origin. A few more shreds of evidence found are:

  • Bakers’ guild from 1111 is one of the oldest pieces of evidence mentioning pretzels. It has been the first even written evidence mentioning pretzels.
  • Another mention was the illustration of pretzels in the Hortus Delicarum manuscript compiled by Herrad of Landsberg in Alsace. Hortus Delicarum is considered to be the first encyclopedia written by a woman. During that period, Alsace was a region under Germany. 
  • Another legend of the pretzel involves a picture of St. Bartholomew. This picture was found in the prayer book that was used by Catherine of Cleves in 1440. The book shows images of pretzels and their three holes symbolizing the holy trinity and good luck. 
  • In 1710, pretzels arrived on American land with the German immigrants. During this period, Pennsylvania became a hub for pretzel production. Several bakeries started preparing pretzels, while some bakeries were only pretzels bakeries. Pennsylvania still held the monopoly in pretzel production making both the soft and hard types. (Also read How did the Pretzel get its shape?)

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3. How were Hard Pretzels Invented?

You might have heard the story of hard pretzels being an accidental invention but, it holds no relevant proof. They were not the result of getting extra baked when the baker slept off. However, it may be considered a tale from the legend of the pretzel. In 1861, a commercial pretzel bakery, owned by Julius Sturgis was set up in Lititz, Pennsylvania. This was the original place of invention of hard pretzels.

Soft traditional pretzels have a short shelf life and are difficult to store. But this invention proved useful because hard pretzels have a long shelf life. The recipe still involves wheat flour, water, and salt. The only thing that changed was the crust in a hard pretzel. (Also read Burrito vs Taco vs Fajita)

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4. How to Pronounce Pretzel?

According to a transcript of the United Kingdom, the word pretzel can be divided into two syllables, prêt, and shul. There should not be a clear sh sound. The h in it will remain silent but still be effective during pronunciation. And in order to attain perfect pronunciation,

  • you must not mix different accents.
  • you can see tutorial videos, say words out loud, and, practice them accordingly.
  • And to check your accuracy, you should record and listen. (Also read Mc Vs. Mac Debate)

Christians observe fast during Lent. It is a period of 40 days when they remember the events leading to the death of Jesus Christ. It falls before Easter every year. Earlier, during these 40 days, they used to avoid eating fish and meat. They used to eat only pretzels and fast every Wednesday and Friday. They preferred pretzels because pretzels were made from simple ingredients, that fulfilled the requirements of the Church guidelines and also symbolize prayers, luck, and holiness. (Also read 6 Lesser Known St Valentine Facts)

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The legend of the pretzel is now known to all and the business of pretzels has grown a lot because of the tales of its origin. As time passed, new flavors of pretzels innovated and got popular. Now there are a variety of flavors like nuts, glazes, some served with different dips and sauces, etc.

  • Americans consume two pounds of pretzels each year and, Philadelphia runs ahead in the race with twelve pounds of pretzels consumed per person in a year. (Also read  How is Salt Water Taffy Made?)
  • Push-cart pretzel vendors, a part of the legend of the pretzel, were confirmed to be the first to provide home delivery food service. They were all common in New York and Philadelphia.

During the October fest, pretzels are, featured as one of the snacks in modern times. Ed Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania, declared 26th April as the National Pretzel Day. Since 2003, this day is being observed all over the world among pretzel lovers. (Must read How Many is a Baker’s Dozen?)

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