By Diane Forrest
When I was younger I lived in the rural Delta of Mississippi. The area was not known for its availability to shopping, so every year at Christmas time, we would drive an hour to Memphis, Tennessee to choose from a variety of items. On one of these excursions we went to a store that had a snack counter. While my mother was busy shopping, my father took my brother and me to the counter and bought us a large, warm, soft pretzel. This was my first soft pretzel, and one I will never forget. He put a little mustard on it, and we ate it so fast you would think we were starving. I have only had a few soft pretzels since that one, but nothing compares to taste of it.
Pretzels have been around for centuries. According to The History of Science and Technology, by Bryan Bunch and Alexander Hellemans, in 610 AD "...an Italian monk invents pretzels as a reward to children who learn their prayers. Pretzels are believed to be the world's oldest snack. Within the Catholic Church, pretzels were regarded as having religious significance for both ingredients and shape. Pretzels made with a simple recipe using only flour and water could be eaten during Lent, when Christians were forbidden to eat eggs, lard, or dairy products such as milk and butter. As time passed, pretzels became associated with both Lent and Easter. Pretzels were hidden on Easter morning just as eggs are hidden today, and are particularly associated with Lent, fasting, and prayers before Easter.
Hard pretzels were invented in the late 1600’s when a Pennsylvania baker forgot about a batch of pretzels in the oven. Though these pretzels seemed inedible because they were dark and hard, they were actually quite delicious! Some of the best inventions were discovered by accident, such as fudge, another "mistake". I use these hard pretzels every year at Christmas when I make my party mix, and also dip them in almond bark and give as gifts to my mother and stepdaughter in law.
Today is National Pretzel Day. I can't think of a better way to celebrate than to grab a bag of pretzels, or visit a Auntie Annie's store for the warm baked ones. Enjoy!