The Religious Meanings in Pretzels. Yes, Pretzels!

Pretzels date back to 1400 and were created by Monks, of all people! Why? To give treats to their young students for learning biblical lessons. And the learning doesn’t end there: the pretzel shape itself has meaning.

Meaning of the Pretzel

  • Roll the dough into string (I would call it a worm). Then make a U. This symbolizes prayers going up to heaven.
  • Cross the pretzel at the top, while still a U. This is tying the knot by their parents in marriage!
  • Flip the knot down to make the traditional pretzel shape, and it leaves three openings: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

And now we eat pretzels absent-mindedly at bars…

A Bath and A Shower

Sturgis Pretzels in Litzitz, PA is the first commercial pretzel bakery in America.

In 1861 a room with four ovens running at 550 degrees was the setting for making pretzels–and pretzel history. The pretzel dough was bathed in water and baking soda and then showered in salt. Mmmm, salt.

Soft pretzels baked for 15-20 minutes, but sadly went stale after two hours. What’s a baker to do? That’s not good for business in all sorts of ways.

Enter the Hard Pretzel

Bake the soft pretzel. And then, so smart, send them upstairs where there’s no circulation and it’s hot from the four ovens at 550 degrees burning all day. Bake the pretzels again–the ambient room temperature was 200-250 degrees. Bikram Yoga anyone?

The upstairs pretzels baked for two hours to two days, depending on the humidity.

That Was Then…This is Now

A pretzel made by hand took five minutes (I can attest; we got to make our own!)

Machinery used from 1940-1982 did the twisting, and could produce 50 per minute.

Today, the dough is extruded through dies–think play-dough. This produces 4,800 per minute.

Making a Sturgis Pretzel

I made this pretzel! And we didn’t wash our hands. Yuck. But we also didn’t eat them, so less yuck.

Pretzel Twister Certificate

I’m adding this to my resume!

Sturgis Pretzel Factory History

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What food symbolism can you share?

 

 

3 Responses

07.22.12

I love pretzels and I had no idea of the history behind it. So pretzels were my favorite unknown part of Christianity and I always loved Passover because of the Manishevitz. I wonder if there is any religion behind guac?

07.22.12

No I never have to feel guilty about eating a whole bag of religion

07.22.12

My favorite symbolism for food is at Passover. I love sharing the meanings behind the foods as we tell the story.

Second place for me is the symbolism behind Chinese food. My book club read The Last Chinese Chef and the descriptions, properties and symbolism of food was so interesting. The culture was infused into the food and it was very differnt from Passover where the history was infused into the food.

I have never really observed the New Years foods like black eyed peas and collard greens. I had them a few times on Jan 1st, but love the people who make sure they eat them every year to have good fortune.

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