Pretzel History 101
As you probably already suspected, people have loved pretzels for centuries. Surprisingly, though, soft and hard pretzels have remarkably different histories. For soft pretzels, the story goes that over a thousand years ago, an Italian monk became frustrated with his distracted students not wanting to learn their prayers.
So he began rewarding his students who did learn them with soft pretzels made out of bread scraps – the shape was inspired by arms folded in prayer. They were called pretiola, which means “little reward.” What was initially a clever way to use leftovers became so popular that bakers across Europe began making them! Eventually the European favorite made its way over to the US with French and German immigrants, and the Pennsylvania Dutch soft pretzel was born.
The hard pretzel, believe it or not, came very close to never existing! In the early 1600s in Pennsylvania, a baker fell asleep and accidentally over-baked his soft pretzels. Fortunately, his boss loved them, and one of America’s favorite snack foods was born! Today, the average American eats nearly 2 pounds of pretzels a year, though Fatty Sundays definitely recommends eating a lot more.
- In 1994, the Beastie Boys released an EP called “Pretzel Nugget”
- A “Pretzelphyte” is a soft pretzel expert
- Freeport, Illinois is known as “Pretzel City, USA,” and its official trademark is a pretzel logo
- The average American eats 2 pounds of pretzels per year, but the average Philadelphian eats 12 pounds!
- The largest pretzel in the world weighed 842 lbs, was 26.8 feet long and 10.2 feet wide
- Pretzels without salt are called “baldies”
- In Germany, the pretzel symbolizes good luck – German kids wear them around their necks on New Year’s Day for a lucky start to the new year
- The phrase “tying the knot” is inspired by pretzels: in Switzerland, newlyweds make a wish and break a pretzel at their weddings for good luck
- President George W. Bush choked on a pretzel in 2002 while watching a football game
- Oprah prefers hard pretzels to soft ones (just like we do!)