Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pretzels - A Lenten Treat

It's hard to associate the fun party snack pretzels with Lent. However this is true. Thanks to a clever monk and some leftover dough, the world's greatest snack was born. It's amazing that we have such a serious time to thank for such a festive little treat.

The pretzel was born in the early 7th Century around 619 or 620 AD, either in Northern Italy or southern France. It was an ambitious monk who folded strips of leftover, unleavened bread and baked them in the crossed shape. This was to mimic how Christians used to pay with their arms folded against their chests. He named the treat pretiola, the Latin word meaning "little reward". Their popularity soon caught on and were mentioned in the early tomes of the days. Pretzels then became the symbol of good luck and long life. The were and still are a big hit in Germany where they accompany endless steins of beer.

They reached America with the Pilgrims who sold them to the Indians. Once again they became addictive with the indigenous people clamoring for more. The first hard pretzel came out of the New was in the late 17th Century , in Pennsylvania when a baker fell asleep on the job. He had thought he hadn't baked his batch when in reality he did. The baker fired up the oven a second time and the pretzels got their crispy brown look we know them for nowadays. Today pretzels are a great low calorie snack served at parties or even for a night of watching TV. Imagine how their creator would feel seeing the variety of shapes and flavors the humble pretzel now comes in.

Lent is a time for seriousness and fasting. However it's also the time to celebrate its' creation, the pretzel.

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