Medieval Inventions: The Pretzel
invented the pretzel?
the legend goes, you can can follow the plot twists all the way
back to 610 AD in a monastery in Southern France or Northern Italy.
frugal monks first created the treat with leftover dough. The
strips were then formed to represent a child's arms folded in
monks called it a Pretiola, Latin for little reward. From
there, the pretiola transformed into the Italian word,
brachiola, or "little arms." The popularity of
the brachiola journeyed beyond France and Italy to where
it really found favor, in Austria and Germany, where it became
known as the Bretzel.
pretzels didn't contain any ingredients that werent eaten
during the pre-Easter season - eggs, milk, butter, lard - the
pretzel became a popular Lenten food throughout the Middle Ages.
of their earliest depictions were included in 1440 on a page in
book portraying the martyred St. Bartholomew - surrounded
by pretzels - since by that time they had come to symbolize good
who sold the treats were in luck, too, since the treats were always
in demand. Another early graphic view of pretzels (at left) show
them cleverly hung aloft from a stick for all to see, hawked by
a German street vendor in approximately 1483.
suggests, however, that the medieval treat might not have been
the popular salty junk food we have all come to love. In fact,
a very different kind of pretzel can be had throughout Vienna
even today. The sugar or chocolate-coated varieties popular with
tourists hark back to a 16th century recipe, translated below:
white flour, only the white of eggs and some wine, sugar and anise,
prepare a dough with these ingredients, roll the dough with clean
hands such that it becomes longish and round. Make small pretzels
from it and put them into a warm oven and bake them so that you
do not burn it but that they are well dried. This way, they will
become crisp and good. If you like, you may take cinnamon as an
ingredient for the dough, too (but you can leave it). This dish
is called Precedella.
no matter in what language or whether consumed soft, hard, chocolate-covered
or salted, the humble pretzel has a proud heritage as possibly
the world's oldest and most popular junk food.