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Tag: Department of Agriculture

What’s Cooking Wednesdays: The case of the buttered pretzel

The packaging label for American Cone and Pretzel Co.'s Butter Pretzels. We fancy the non-sequitur elephant pretzel in the logo.

Since it’s fall and October, our thoughts naturally turned to Oktoberfest as a possible topic for What’s Cooking Wednesdays. However, one too many encounters with Upton Sinclair’s letter to President Teddy Roosevelt about the working conditions in meat factories had us avoiding the bratwurst. And, apparently, drinking beer in the office is hugely frowned upon by the management. So we turned to another appropriately Oktoberfest-y menu item: the pretzel.

While its presence in the U.S. doesn’t pack quite the same punch to the gut as the (un)savory sausage, the pretzel has its own colorful history to tell. It’s thought to have originated from monasteries in the Middle Ages, where monks made little pastries from strips of dough to represent a child’s arm folded in prayer. The treats, called pretiola (Latin for “little reward”) were given to children for good behavior and memorizing their verses and prayers.

Thanks to human migration, the pretiola traveled to Italy and became called brachiola (Italian for “little arms”). In Germany, it was known as bretzel or pretzel. It crossed the oceans with the immigrants in the 1800s and settled in Pennsylvania.

Lancaster County, PA, boasted the first commercial pretzel bakery, which was established by Julius Sturgis in the town of Lititz in 1861. The pretzel business was a brisk one. To this day, about 80 percent of the … [ Read all ]