April 26 is the day we set aside to celebrate the delightful oddly shaped bread known as pretzels. Though there is no hard and fast evidence, it appears that pretzels were first invented by monks in the Middle Ages. They were given as little rewards to children who had learned their prayers. In the traditional shape, the three lobes of a pretzel represent the Trinity, and the twisted shapes represent arms folded in prayer. In Italian, pretiola means “little reward.” Alternatively, the pretzel may be based on Greek Ring Bread, which was said to have been used for communion long ago. But whatever the origin, it is likely that bakers liked them because they could easily display them on sticks, as represented by the painting The Baker, done by the Dutch painter Job Berckheyde around 1650. The painting is now located in the Worcester, Massachusetts art museum. Click on the link above to see it online. It’s a delightful picture.
For most of their existence, pretzels were soft, like you get at Auntie Anne’s now. (By the way, they give out free pretzels on this day. Read about how to do that here.) Apparently, the now more usual hard pretzels were created by accident. According to legend, in the late 1600s, a Pennsylvania baker forgot a batch of pretzels in the oven. The over-baked treats were dark and hard, but the baker sampled one anyway and liked what he tasted.
Pennsylvania Dutch immigrants brought pretzels to the U.S. in the nineteenth century, and Pennsylvania is still the center of pretzel production in this country. In fact, National Pretzel Day was declared in 2003 by the governor of Pennsylvania to recognize the importance of pretzels to the state’s history and economy. (Not sure how the governor of a state gets to declare a national holiday, but apparently that’s what happened!)
So grab a soft pretzel or a bag of what is now an over 500 million industry in the U.S. and enjoy the day!
Quotes about pretzels.
All food starting with p is comfort food: pasta, potato chips, pretzels, peanut butter, pastrami, Pizza, pastry.–Sara Paretsky
Love makes intellectual pretzels of us all.–Sarah Bird
We stock up on popcorn and candy like we’re crossing the Sierras, don’t we? I’ll have a couple of soft pretzels, a hot dog, Milk Duds, Snocaps. …Oh, and a Diet Coke.–Ellen DeGeneres
My mother always said, ‘When you’re eating pretzels, chew before you swallow’. Always listen to your mother.–George W. Bush
But you can’t just sit around the fireplace and sip Cokes and eat pretzels and get an attitude of confidence. You have to put in hard work.–Lee Haney
Today coming to work, I saw one of those only in New York scenes. It was a rat who had passed out after choking on a pretzel.–David Letterman
Chocolate covered peanuts, chocolate covered raisins, chocolate covered pretzels… Chocolate. So afraid to be alone.–Dana Gould
When my husband Jonas and I started Auntie Annes in 1988, we never expected or anticipated building an international pretzel franchise. It was the farthest thing from our minds.–Anne F. Beiler
I was so shy. Instead of waiting in line with other kids at lunch, I’d go to a corner and buy a pretzel and orange juice. I think I had that for lunch the first three years of high school.–Peter Facinelli
I have great expectations for our company; pretzels were just the beginning.–Nell Newman
The church is not going to survive if they are going to tell people that they have to twist their minds into 1st century pretzels.–John Shelby Spong
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