Every Day is a Food Day

Pretzels: Get it Twisted

April 12, 2022 Van Valin Productions & YumDay Season 3 Episode 28
Pretzels: Get it Twisted
Every Day is a Food Day
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Every Day is a Food Day
Pretzels: Get it Twisted
Apr 12, 2022 Season 3 Episode 28
Van Valin Productions & YumDay

Anna and Lia are tied up in knots — delicious, doughy knots — because this episode is all about pretzels! Lia Ballentine, our Chef-Creator, starts us off with the pretzel baking basics and tells us how changing the dough’s pH by boiling it in baking soda or dropping it in a lye bath (that’s right, a lye bath) is essential to achieving the perfect pretzel taste and texture. She takes us through the multiple pretzel-related food holidays on the calendar, including National Pretzel Day, which is day loved by all - especially our hero Stanley from The Office. Plus, she tells us why a region in Pennsylvania is known as the “Snack Belt,” how German immigrants started the pretzel boom in America, and highlights two important women in pretzel history: Helen Hoff and “Auntie Anne” Beiler. Yes, Auntie Anne is a real person! Then get ready for one of the wildest Deep Dish segments ever as Anna Van Valin, our Foodlosopher, tells us the fascinating story behind the bizarre religious history of the pretzel — starting from Middle Ages when monks baked pretzels as a holy treat for students, all the way to the 1970s when an ex-clown founded a movement to bring people back to the Catholic Church during a time when secularism was on the rise and made pretzels the center of it. Anna shares the fascinating story of Marlene McCauley, the founder of “Pretzels for God,” and how she believed the pretzel, with the spiritual guidance of a Native American saint Kateri Tekakwitha, could save our souls. Get ready to enjoy some crazy twists in this episode because these pretzel stories are ones you knead to hear!

More info from the show:

Connect with us!

  • Want to support our women and BIPOC-created independent podcast? Buy us a coffee!
  • For more great content about the stories & foods we talk about on the show (plus a peek BTS) follow us at @FoodDayPod on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook or check out our webpage.
  • Join our mailing list for extra content and to keep up with all the exciting things we have planned for this season.
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Anna and Lia are tied up in knots — delicious, doughy knots — because this episode is all about pretzels! Lia Ballentine, our Chef-Creator, starts us off with the pretzel baking basics and tells us how changing the dough’s pH by boiling it in baking soda or dropping it in a lye bath (that’s right, a lye bath) is essential to achieving the perfect pretzel taste and texture. She takes us through the multiple pretzel-related food holidays on the calendar, including National Pretzel Day, which is day loved by all - especially our hero Stanley from The Office. Plus, she tells us why a region in Pennsylvania is known as the “Snack Belt,” how German immigrants started the pretzel boom in America, and highlights two important women in pretzel history: Helen Hoff and “Auntie Anne” Beiler. Yes, Auntie Anne is a real person! Then get ready for one of the wildest Deep Dish segments ever as Anna Van Valin, our Foodlosopher, tells us the fascinating story behind the bizarre religious history of the pretzel — starting from Middle Ages when monks baked pretzels as a holy treat for students, all the way to the 1970s when an ex-clown founded a movement to bring people back to the Catholic Church during a time when secularism was on the rise and made pretzels the center of it. Anna shares the fascinating story of Marlene McCauley, the founder of “Pretzels for God,” and how she believed the pretzel, with the spiritual guidance of a Native American saint Kateri Tekakwitha, could save our souls. Get ready to enjoy some crazy twists in this episode because these pretzel stories are ones you knead to hear!

More info from the show:

Connect with us!

  • Want to support our women and BIPOC-created independent podcast? Buy us a coffee!
  • For more great content about the stories & foods we talk about on the show (plus a peek BTS) follow us at @FoodDayPod on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook or check out our webpage.
  • Join our mailing list for extra content and to keep up with all the exciting things we have planned for this season.


 Pretzels: Get it Twisted

0:00:00.1 Lia Ballentine: And there's even another love tradition for pretzels that goes back to a kind of a holiday that they would celebrate in Luxembourg, where guys would give pretzels to the girls that they had crushes on as gifts, and they would do this during Easter.


0:00:14.2 Anna Van Valin: Did the boys give all the girls like the same pretzel?


0:00:17.4 LB: I mean, I think if you really wanted to impress, you needed to make sure that you were giving them the biggest pretzel you got.




0:00:24.7 AV: Oh, so like the size of the pretzel correlated with the size of the crush or the size of the love?


0:00:29.6 LB: Oh yeah. I'm sure it did. Don't give me no tiny, tiny pretzel.




0:00:33.1 AV: Right? No. Guys, pretzels are proof that size matters.




0:00:37.3 LB: It does.


0:00:37.9 AV: It matters.


0:00:38.6 LB: Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.




0:00:40.3 AV: You think they can make up for it, but they can't. Anyway.






0:00:45.9 LB: Hi, everyone, welcome to Every Day is a Food Day, a show about the stories, scandals, history and holidays behind your favorite foods.




0:01:04.0 LB: I'm Lia Ballentine, a Chef-Creator.


0:01:06.1 AV: And I'm Anna Van Valin, your resident Foodlosopher.


0:01:09.5 LB: We're all tied up in knots because this episode is all about pretzels.


0:01:14.4 AV: Can a pretzel save your soul? In the Deep Dish, I'm gonna tell you about the bizzare and miraculous religious history of the pretzel, from the legend of its origin as a holy treat baked by monks in the Middle Ages to a 1970s Catholic movement founded by an ex-clown that used pretzels as a symbol to drive people back to church, called Pretzels for God.


0:01:35.9 LB: But first, I'm gonna tell you why we have the Pennsylvania Dutch to thank for our national pretzel obsession, where you can find a magical land called The Snack Belt and The Pretzel Festival fit for royalty.


0:01:47.7 AV: For more delicious content about these foods and stories and to get a peak behind the scenes, check out the links in our show notes to connect with us on social media at @FoodDayPod, visit our website and join our mailing list. If you wanna support this Women In BIPOC-created independent podcast, click the Buy Me a Coffee link to help us cover the cost of production. And don't forget to leave a rating and review.




0:02:11.3 Speaker 3: I wake up every morning in a bed that's too small, drive my daughter to a school that's too expensive, and then I go to work to a job for which I get paid too little. But on Pretzel Day, well, I like Pretzel Day.


0:02:24.1 AV: Hey, Lia.


0:02:25.8 LB: Hey, Anna.


0:02:26.6 AV: How are you feeling?


0:02:27.6 LB: I'm feeling good.


0:02:28.5 AV: Yeah?


0:02:28.9 LB: I'm pretty excited about today.


0:02:30.6 AV: Yeah? You are feeling salty?


0:02:31.0 LB: I'm feeling salty. I mean, I love talking about carbs, man. So... [chuckle] I am ready.


0:02:38.6 AV: I am so happy about talking about pretzels. We have got great stories, we have got great facts, and like, just the joy that a pretzel brings.


0:02:47.5 LB: I know! Aren't they just like some of the cutest snack foods?


0:02:51.2 AV: They're like the whole world, right? They're big and soft and squishy, or they're small and crunchy and satisfying, and it's just like, basically, it could be a loaf of crispy bread, but with a shape. It could also just be like something to give you an excuse to keep drinking your beer.




0:03:10.2 LB: Maybe that's why I like it so much.




0:03:12.1 AV: I know. It's just me getting in touch with my German roots.


0:03:16.1 LB: That's true. Yeah, this is... It's like you're practically made of pretzels. [chuckle] It's in your blood. [chuckle]


0:03:22.1 AV: I pretty much am. My last name is Van Valin, which used to be Von Valin.


0:03:26.6 LB: Oh!


0:03:27.2 AV: Except that Germans were not the most popular people for a little while at the beginning of the last century, so the name was a little too German, so we stuck a Van on there. My mother's last name is Jager with a J.


0:03:40.6 LB: Oh wow!


0:03:41.8 AV: That's how German.


0:03:43.0 LB: That's legit.




0:03:45.6 AV: Yeah, so I feel it deep. In Europe and in a lot of places, soft pretzels are... They're more like a side dish.


0:03:52.0 LB: Oh!


0:03:52.8 AV: Yeah, it's kind of like you would get a roll or corn bread or something like that, they come in baskets on your table.


0:04:00.8 LB: I love that.


0:04:00.9 AV: Yes, with whipped butter.


0:04:02.5 LB: Oh my God, that sounds amazing.


0:04:04.6 AV: It's amazing, and they also sell just pretzel bread as like rolls. Oh my God.


0:04:11.2 LB: Whoa.


0:04:11.3 AV: I have gotta ask my dad. I think it's Laugenbroetchen, something like that. My dad lived in Germany on and off for, I dont know, around 20 years? And you still go to the bakery every morning, it's like the beginning of Beauty and the Beast. Like, "Bonjour. Bonjour!"


0:04:24.9 LB: Bonjour!


0:04:25.3 AV: But it's Guttentag.




0:04:27.3 AV: And get like fresh rolls and fresh baked goods. And he, whenever I come to visit, I was like, "Get me the damn pretzel bread rolls."


0:04:34.8 LB: Oh my God. I remember when pretzel buns started to be a thing.


0:04:39.2 AV: Oh yeah.


0:04:39.6 LB: Even fast food joints were starting to do pretzel buns.


0:04:42.8 AV: Yeah, and your burgers and sandwiches and stuff.


0:04:44.3 LB: And I thought, "What? Why am I going crazy over that?" Like, "Wait a minute, you're telling me you're gonna take a pretzel and make it a bun for my burger? Sign me up." And then I thought it was actually gonna be like a pretzel, [laughter] and no it was not.


0:05:00.8 AV: Oh no.


0:05:00.9 LB: But it works out much better because with the holes, the stuff would have fallen right through.




0:05:05.6 AV: Yeah, the mustard and ketchup wouldn't have sat as well. Yeah, I agree. It's one of those things that you're surprised, you're surprised at. 'Cause what did I think? If you didn't put it in the pretzel shape, it just wouldn't work, it just wouldn't bake, it just wouldn't be bread. It's just bread. But you gotta get that crispy outside bit.


0:05:23.0 LB: Yeah, we'll talk about that, getting it nice and dark and golden brown is very important.


0:05:28.9 AV: Yeah, and it's actually dangerous in some ways. Part of the reasons why we have to have machines mass-producing pretzels is because you need a caustic agent. You need something that's very base to get that crisp on the outside, and that can be dangerous. If you're using a lye bath or a sodium bicarbonate bath, if it's too concentrated, like you can't just have people with their bare hands throwing that around.




0:05:53.1 LB: You gotta change the pH up, or else it's not gonna be a good tasting pretzel.




0:05:57.6 AV: I'm just imagining people in Hazmat suits trying to twist pretzels.




0:06:04.1 AV: So they don't get the lye on their skin.




0:06:06.2 LB: I'm just picturing the hot zone, but pretzels. You know? [laughter]


0:06:08.8 AV: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. But it's got the protocols of Chernobyl, right?


0:06:13.9 LB: Yeah.


0:06:13.9 AV: You have to go through all the air locks, the decontamination station.




0:06:18.7 LB: Is there a hole in my suit?




0:06:23.3 AV: So do you have an affinity for soft or hard pretzels, or do they both have their place?


0:06:29.6 LB: I think they both have their place. I love a delicious soft pretzel when it's warm, it's fresh, and then you can butter it up or dip it in a mustard. So good. But then I do... I really enjoy a covered hard pretzel.


0:06:46.4 AV: Oh.


0:06:46.7 LB: So chocolate-covered, yogurt-covered pretzels, I could eat the crap out of a bag of those all day, every day. I think it's having that salty, sweet, and crunchy bit.


0:06:55.8 AV: Oh yeah.


0:06:56.2 LB: It's just amazing and delicious. Yeah, I can't really... I can't choose one or the other. I want them both.


0:07:02.0 AV: The pretzel is vast. It contains multitudes. It is a great base for a sweet thing, right?


0:07:08.0 LB: Yeah.


0:07:08.1 AV: 'Cause it's got sturdiness, and the crispness, and the saltiness, so it's a great foundation for something sweet. It gives you that perfect combo.


0:07:15.9 LB: Yeah.


0:07:16.5 AV: As I have been researching and thinking a lot about pretzels, I've come to a controversial opinion.




0:07:22.3 LB: What is this? What is this controversy you're about to stir up?


0:07:25.6 AV: Stick with me, people, don't leave. Just stick with me. I don't think that a pretzel is like a snack item.


0:07:34.4 LB: Oh.


0:07:35.4 AV: I think that along with chip, or cracker, or cookie, I think pretzel should be seen as a category of snack.


0:07:45.5 LB: Yeah, I can see that.


0:07:47.0 AV: Because it comes in so many forms.


0:07:50.4 LB: I agree with you.


0:07:51.7 AV: You guys on board with that?


0:07:52.6 LB: Ooh, you know what? I think this is something we might have to ask folks before we do our next IG live because...


0:07:57.9 AV: Ooh.


0:07:58.9 LB: Yeah.


0:08:00.4 AV: Yeah.


0:08:00.9 LB: Guys, we're doing IG lives now on the last Wednesday of the month on @FoodDayPod, and that's where we get to answer your questions, give you behind-the-scenes peek at what we're doing, and have fun.


0:08:10.0 AV: They're so fun. We actually just did one. And we wanna thank our listeners like Michelle, and Tam, and Wayde for coming, for throwing us emojis and little comments, and advocating for an ice cream episode. There're now seems to be a movement...


0:08:25.0 LB: Yeah.


0:08:25.5 AV: For us to make an ice cream episode, so we will take them into consideration. And our listeners like Joey who asked a very provocative question about buffalo wings.


0:08:33.1 LB: I know. It's really made me start thinking like, "Which one do I grab first?"


0:08:36.4 AV: Right.


0:08:36.8 LB: Drumettes or flats?


0:08:38.2 AV: Or the flats.


0:08:39.2 LB: Think about that, you guys. [chuckle]


0:08:40.5 AV: Yeah. Have you ever really considered it? Is there one you reach for first?


0:08:44.0 LB: Mm-hmm. I guess I'll just have to order some wings.




0:08:48.3 AV: So follow us on Instagram @FoodDayPod and then you can watch the ones we've already done, and you can join us last Wednesday of the month where we're gonna just have some fun, interact with you guys and answer some questions.


0:09:00.7 LB: Yeah, we'll answer anything. [chuckle]


0:09:02.7 AV: Literally anything. We have no boundaries. I'm kidding. Let us know what you think of the show. Leave us a review on your podcast platform of choice, and let us know what you love about what we're doing so we can make sure we keep doing it.


0:09:15.4 LB: Yeah, this show's for you guys.


0:09:17.1 AV: We wanna make you happy.


0:09:18.3 LB: Yeah.


0:09:18.6 AV: So Lia, thinking about pretzels, and especially the warm soft pretzels...


0:09:23.6 LB: Yeah.


0:09:24.2 AV: Has gotten me thinking about the mall.


0:09:26.8 LB: Oh. I mean, they kinda go hand in hand, right?


0:09:30.0 AV: Right?


0:09:30.1 LB: Or at least for our generation.


0:09:32.8 AV: Yes. For those of you, youngs, the mall is a bunch of stores in a line. And your parents would drop you off there, and you wouldn't really have any intention. [laughter] You would just go to the mall.


0:09:49.2 LB: Yeah. Did we buy stuff? Maybe.


0:09:50.8 AV: Sometimes. [chuckle] But you know what I always went for?


0:09:54.5 LB: What?


0:09:54.8 AV: Auntie Anne's, baby.


0:09:56.3 LB: Oh, you had to. How could you resist the smell?


0:10:00.0 AV: Oh, man.


0:10:00.4 LB: It's too good.


0:10:00.5 AV: You knew when you were coming down that wing. You know, you pass the express, the Hot Topic, then you can just smell it coming for you.


0:10:08.0 LB: So tempting.


0:10:09.0 AV: So good.


0:10:09.1 LB: So good. Yeah, I used to work at the mall when I was a kid. And the Auntie Anne's... Well, I remember they gave free refills on lemonade. So we would go at the beginning of our shift, grab a lemonade from Auntie Anne's, and then drink on that all during our work shift. But then we became friends with the Auntie Anne's pretzel makers, so...


0:10:26.7 AV: Amazing.


0:10:27.2 LB: We were able to snag a few freebies every now and then. And they were so good. The cinnamon, huh! [chuckle]


0:10:34.2 AV: I feel like she really pioneered different toppings.


0:10:38.2 LB: Yeah, she did. You could do all kinds of things.


0:10:40.7 AV: The first time I got the bites or the sticks, and I got the marinara sauce, oh my god. [chuckle]




0:10:50.4 AV: Life-changing.


0:10:52.3 LB: I'm getting so hungry just thinking about this.


0:10:54.6 AV: I think that I read that they have different flavors in different countries.


0:10:58.2 LB: Interesting.


0:11:00.6 AV: Kind of like we've talked about the McDonald's dollar menu is different in different countries.


0:11:04.8 LB: Yup.


0:11:04.8 AV: I think that the pretzel toppings are different too. [chuckle] But again, that reinforces my idea of it as like a snack category, right? 'Cause that reminds me of chips when you go all over the world and they have the weird-ass flavors of Lays.


0:11:18.0 LB: Yeah. Yup.


0:11:19.5 AV: That is always a culture shock for me, is I wanna go and see what kind of weird-ass sauerkraut-flavored, baked bean-flavored, prosciutto-flavored potato chips you got laying around, 'cause that will tell me a lot about your culture.


0:11:32.5 LB: That is very true. [chuckle]


0:11:35.1 AV: One of the best episodes of The Office...


0:11:37.4 LB: The Pretzel Day episode.


0:11:39.1 Speaker 4: Once a year, they bring in a little cart, and they give away free pretzels. It's really not a big deal. To some people it is.


0:11:47.5 Speaker 5: Productivity is important, but how can I be productive if I have this one little thing in my brain that I cannot get out, and that one little thing is a soft pretzel?


0:11:56.1 AV: I re-watched it yesterday. It's such a good episode and it's one of the few that are just like pure comedy from beginning to end. You all know The Office can get bleak. [chuckle] It can get dark.


0:12:08.1 LB: Yup.


0:12:08.2 AV: Some of the saddest, [chuckle] most tragic moments in television I think I've seen, have involved Michael Scott.


0:12:17.9 LB: Right. [chuckle]


0:12:19.6 AV: Oh my gosh, after Angela dumps Dwight [laughter] and you see him, and he's just holding a figurine of a cat mourning, my god, it was so sad. Anyway, it's such a good episode. Stanley...


0:12:29.0 LB: Stanley. [chuckle]


0:12:30.6 AV: Pretzel Day. But it reminds me of when we worked at the film studio, my office was across the hall from the executive conference room. The highlight of our lives was when the very fancy people had a board meeting or some kind of meeting, and they would get it catered, [chuckle] because there was hallway food. They never ate it all, rich people don't eat the free food, right?


0:13:00.4 LB: Mm-mm.


0:13:00.7 AV: So I would just Slack the other people on the floor, and I'd be like, hallway food. I'll give you the go ahead. All the catering dudes knew, [chuckle] and they were like, as soon as they go in, you can have the food. So they'd get on Slack, and I'd be like, it's go time, hallway food.


0:13:15.2 LB: I love that. Kept your eyes on it, you knew exactly when to get there.


0:13:18.5 AV: I knew what window I had, 'cause they can't just leave the food lying out right? So once they close the doors to start their whatever Tribal Council where they decide all our fates in the executive board room, there's only a window that they'll let the food sit out there.


0:13:33.0 LB: That is true.


0:13:33.7 AV: You've gotta go.


0:13:34.5 LB: And they'll just waste it. I mean, so you had to do this. I hate foodways.


0:13:38.4 AV: Yeah, they just toss it.


0:13:39.5 LB: Yeah.


0:13:39.9 AV: They don't donate it, they don't... They can't give it to anyone, so it's like really, I'm being a conservationist.


0:13:45.8 LB: Exactly. Also just you gotta get the perks where you can man. [chuckle]


0:13:48.9 AV: You have to. Imagine if an executive board meeting just got catered with pretzels, like soft pretzels, maybe there wouldn't be any in the hallway. Maybe even they couldn't resist.


0:14:02.6 LB: Right.


0:14:03.0 AV: Alright, I've got pretzel brain.


0:14:05.9 LB: Me too.


0:14:06.1 AV: I'm all nutted up.


0:14:07.5 LB: Yeah.


0:14:07.9 AV: I'm ready.


0:14:08.6 LB: Yes.


0:14:09.0 AV: Lia, will you tell us about some pretzels holidays and festivals and celebrations?


0:14:13.1 LB: I will. There's a lot to cover, but don't worry. We'll... I'm trying to think of a great pun. [laughter]


0:14:20.3 AV: We'll wrap it all up, we'll tie it all up in a bow...


0:14:24.3 LB: Yeah, we'll tie it all up for you.


0:14:26.9 AV: Let's do it.


0:14:27.6 LB: Awesome.




0:14:48.4 LB: Alright, Anna, I've got Maria von Trapp in my head. So you know what we're gonna do? We're gonna start at the very beginning, which is a very good place to start.


0:14:55.2 AV: It sure is. [chuckle]


0:14:57.3 LB: I'm gonna just give you some pretzel basics. We kinda know what a pretzel is, but do we really, really know? So just to make sure everybody's on the same page here. A pretzel is a baked rope of dough and it's usually twisted and knotted up. And to make a good soft pretzel, you typically gotta boil it in something like baking soda first. So we talked a little bit about this, and this is where some of the dangers of pretzel baking can happen, because you've gotta boil it in something that's alkaline. So you can make that dough puff up, get it all like puffy and chewy inside, but also make sure that the outside kinda turns that golden brown color, you want it nice and crusty and dark, that's when you know. Or else, without it, you would just have basically white bread. [chuckle] Nothing wrong with that, but come on.


0:15:44.8 AV: It would just be like a weird baguette, which I'd eat it.


0:15:48.6 LB: Yeah, exactly, I'd still eat it.


0:15:50.1 AV: But you want that balance of the chewy and the crispy.


0:15:53.2 LB: Yeah, we want the chewy, the crispy, we want that color. That's why you gotta take a little bit of a risk and boil it in some sort of baking soda solution or the traditional Bavarian pretzels, which Anna, alluded to, they're actually dipped in a lye solution. So that really gave the pretzel its brown color and its great taste. So, a little dangerous.


0:16:12.0 AV: Yeah.


0:16:13.2 LB: But definitely makes it more flavorful.


0:16:14.9 AV: That surprised me since I watched so many murder shows and usually lye [chuckle] is part of hiding the bodies in the garden...


0:16:25.5 LB: That's true.


0:16:26.1 AV: So I was surprised it was also a part of such a delicious treat. But like we said, pretzels are vast, they contain multitudes.


0:16:33.5 LB: They contain multitudes. And the pretzel, it's been around a while. So the pretzel has been around since at least the Middle Ages that we know of. But it does have some twisted origins, so some people say that it was a treat that medieval Italian monks gave to school kids, and that was because the pretzel, when it's all twisted up, looks like little arms crossed in prayer. And then there are some other pretzel traditions around the 17th century that started to pop up. So this twisty pretzel, all of the ways that it interlocks and loops, that ended up becoming a symbol of love. So it was said that couples in Switzerland would use pretzels in their wedding ceremonies, it's like a symbol of matrimony, and this is kind of where we get the whole phrase, tying to knot, which blew my mind.


0:17:16.5 AV: Isn't it crazy?


0:17:17.5 LB: Yeah. Apparently, they would use this like a wishbone, the way we would think of breaking a wishbone apart, making a wish, they would have a pretzel that was all knotted up and that was them tying the knot.


0:17:27.7 AV: Amazing. So to think that all those Pinterest pins for wedding, save the dates in the loopy wedding fonts that had a pretzel imagery on them are actually historically accurate.


0:17:38.4 LB: There should be more pretzels at weddings, guys.


0:17:40.7 AV: Yes.


0:17:41.2 LB: Just put it out there. Don't invite me to your wedding unless you have pretzels.


0:17:45.0 AV: Yes. Perhaps, don't give me a weird soup, they always give you the weird soup.


0:17:50.3 LB: Yeah.


0:17:50.5 AV: And it's too hot to eat, and then by the time it's cooled off enough to eat, some cater waiter's taking it away.


0:17:55.6 LB: They're taking it from you. Oh, I hate that.


0:17:58.5 AV: No more soup, only pretzels.


0:18:00.0 LB: Only pretzels.


0:18:02.2 AV: And there's even another love tradition for pretzels that goes back to a kind of a holiday that they would celebrate in Luxembourg, where guys would give pretzels to the girls that they had crushes on as gifts, and they would do this during Easter. And if the girls like them back, they would give them eggs in return. [laughter]


0:18:23.7 AV: That is not a fair trade.


0:18:24.7 LB: It's a little weird, but on leap year, the tradition was actually reversed, so the girls would give their guys a pretzel and then the dudes could give them eggs.


0:18:34.7 AV: So, it was like a Sadie Hawkins.


0:18:36.1 LB: Yeah, the Sadie Hawkins...


0:18:37.9 AV: The Sadie Hawkins version.


0:18:39.3 LB: Of pretzel giving during Easter. And it actually has a name. So, you have to tell me if I'm saying this right, Bretzelsonndeg. It looks like a name of some kind of IKEA furniture but...


0:18:49.4 AV: Yeah, well...


0:18:50.1 LB: That is the term for giving of the pretzels.


0:18:52.4 AV: Zondag is Sunday.


0:18:54.1 LB: So it's Pretzel Sunday?


0:18:55.5 AV: Yeah. Pretzel Sunday.


0:18:56.1 LB: There we go. I think every Sunday is pretzel Sunday.


0:19:00.7 AV: Yes. Every day is a food day, specifically Sundays are pretzel days.


0:19:05.0 LB: And Sundays are pretzel days.


0:19:06.7 AV: Did the boys give all the girls the same pretzel?


0:19:09.9 LB: I mean I think if you really wanted to impress, you needed to make sure that you're giving them the biggest pretzel you got.




0:19:17.2 AV: Oh, so the size of the pretzel is correlated with the size of the crush or the size of the love.


0:19:23.5 LB: Oh, yeah, I'm sure it did. Don't give me no tiny, tiny pretzel.




0:19:26.5 AV: Right. The last one in one of those bags from Subway.


0:19:30.6 LB: Yeah.


0:19:31.1 AV: Your side order. No, guys, pretzels are proof that size matters.




0:19:36.0 LB: It does.


0:19:37.7 AV: It matters.


0:19:38.5 LB: Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.


0:19:39.5 AV: You think they can make up for it, but they can't. Anyway.




0:19:44.1 LB: So yes. Pretzels mean a lot of things. They are considered symbols of good luck in addition to being a symbol of love. People looked at pretzels as symbolizing fortune, prosperity. In Germany, in the 17th century, kids were said to wear pretzel necklaces on New Years to bring them good luck in the coming year. So, I guess pretzels were kinda like our black-eyed peas.


0:20:08.1 AV: Oh, okay.


0:20:09.1 LB: And pretzels were also given out to the poor sustenance. So, there's definitely a very charitable component. So, how did the pretzel end up here? That's the big question. And there is a rumor that it was brought over on the Mayflower. I don't know if that's true, but...


0:20:23.8 AV: Hmm, that's a long journey.


0:20:25.4 LB: I mean, if I was traveling on the Mayflower, I guess I would just like, "Guys, you can only bring one thing. What are you gonna bring?" It would have to be pretzels.


0:20:32.8 AV: I mean they thought they were literally sailing off the edge of the earth. So, I guess they're like, "Well, this is our last hoorah."


0:20:40.8 LB: Bring the pretzels.


0:20:41.9 AV: It's just us and the sea monsters out here.


0:20:46.2 LB: But the folks who are most associated with pretzels are the German settlers in Pennsylvania. And it was because of them, their innovations, industrialization, they were the ones that made pretzels a really popular snack across the country. And we're gonna dig into that a little bit more here in a minute. And so today, pretzels are definitely one of the most popular snack foods out there. Americans eat around two pounds of pretzels every year, which doesn't sound like a lot, but I think if you kind of look at hard pretzels, it would take a lot of those pretzels to make up two pounds.


0:21:21.7 AV: Yeah, that's true.


0:21:23.3 LB: I think this is what the snack statistics were really looking at. We get to celebrate the pretzel multiple times throughout the year. And again, if we got food holidays for it, then it must mean that this is truly a popular food.


0:21:34.0 AV: That's how you know.


0:21:34.9 LB: That is how you know. So, there are actually three different holidays that are all focused on pretzels. April, which is why we're doing this show. Now, it's actually National Soft Pretzel month, guys.


0:21:46.9 AV: Happy National Soft Pretzel month, everyone.


0:21:49.3 LB: Happy National Soft Pretzel month. We don't know how it started, but we're glad that it started because it's really an excuse for us to eat pretzels for 30 days straight. I mean, that's the challenge that I'm going to take on.




0:22:03.1 LB: But another reason that April seems to line up with being pretzel month is that this is also Lent time. And pretzels were an approved Lenten food in the Catholic Church.


0:22:13.0 AV: Oh yeah, we're gonna talk about that a lot in the Deep Dish.


0:22:15.5 LB: Awesome, I can't wait. And then, in the fall, there's also another chance to get your pretzel fix. And we have National Chocolate-covered Pretzel Day then. This is the perfect day to just enjoy pretzels covered in chocolate.


0:22:28.9 AV: Pick up a bag of flips.


0:22:30.4 LB: Oh yeah, or even at some of the markets where you bring your own bag and you can bulk fill with grains and other snacks.


0:22:36.6 AV: Oh yeah.


0:22:37.2 LB: They also have...


0:22:38.1 AV: There's a yogurt-covered and chocolate covered pretzels.


0:22:38.9 LB: The yogurt pretzel. Yeah.


0:22:42.1 AV: Oh man, I used to love that.


0:22:43.4 LB: Me too. I would always scoop away too much.




0:22:48.0 LB: Then I'd go weight the bag. And I'm like, "I think I have to put some back."




0:22:52.0 AV: Can you put things back?


0:22:53.1 LB: No.


0:22:53.3 AV: I don't think you were supposed to put things back in the bins, oops.


0:22:55.8 LB: I don't think so. I mean, I didn't because I ate all of them anyway, but I did feel a little bit guilty when it was a little too much. But on October 7th, on National Covered Pretzel Day, you can eat as many scoops of chocolate-covered pretzels as you want. And that day was created in 2019 by a company called Fatty Sundays, which is a little pretzel snack company that's owned by two sisters.


0:23:18.0 AV: Nice.


0:23:19.0 LB: And then, on April 26th, so mark your calendars, his is the official National Pretzel Day. And I say official because it actually started in 2003 when Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell declared April 26th as National Pretzel Day to acknowledge the importance of the pretzel to the state's history and economy.


0:23:37.9 AV: Very cool.


0:23:38.8 LB: I mean, it's pretty important when there's an official government proclamation.


0:23:43.2 AV: Yeah, by the governor.


0:23:44.9 LB: Yeah, when the governor does it, it means something. So, we've talked about Pennsylvania, but let's really dig in to why is Pennsylvania the home for pretzels. And to sum it up, Pennsylvania produces 80% of the nation's pretzels.


0:23:58.3 AV: Wow. Still?


0:24:00.8 LB: Still. Yeah, in fact, there's a stretch of land in the Central Southeastern region of Pennsylvania that's known as the Pretzel belt. [chuckle] AKA, the Pennsylvania snack belt.


0:24:13.2 AV: The Snack Belt. It's just a line of Wawa's.


0:24:16.1 LB: Oh, that's right.




0:24:18.1 LB: Just stop in.


0:24:19.2 AV: Just do like a Wawa crawl.


0:24:20.8 LB: Yeah.


0:24:21.1 AV: Across Pennsylvania.


0:24:23.5 LB: Pretzels, jerky.


0:24:24.1 AV: Oh, I get this image in my head of Batman's utility belt, but it's just got... Just snacks.


0:24:30.3 LB: Just a snack belt.


0:24:31.6 AV: Yeah.


0:24:32.4 LB: I need one of those.


0:24:32.7 AV: It needs to be a new Yumday product.


0:24:36.4 LB: Yeah, a Yumday snack belt.


0:24:38.0 AV: People can just put their snacks in there for when they're hungry. They don't have to go back to the box.


0:24:41.5 LB: I love it.


0:24:41.9 AV: Hello. You're welcome, Lia, that one's free.


0:24:44.8 LB: Thank you.


0:24:45.3 AV: I'm doing a business development consult right now.


0:24:48.2 LB: I'm gonna be pitching this on Shark Tank. Today, sharks, I have for you the Yumday snack belt.




0:24:56.1 AV: Inspired by the Pennsylvania Dutch.


0:24:57.7 LB: Exactly. Well, the reason it is called the Snack Belt is because this is actually where most of the pretzels come from and are consumed, they say. So, that most pretzel consumption actually does happen in this area, which makes sense. Like you were saying, Anna, if there was a whole Wawa line, everybody would be eating that. At one point in the early 1990s, because pretzels were really the thing in this part of Pennsylvania, there was even a Pretzel Museum that was put up to capture all of the history and to acknowledge all of the important players in the pretzel industry. It was a great place for it because there are... All of the pretzel and snack food makers are really there.


0:25:33.6 LB: You have some popular ones that we all know about. I mean, there's Hershey, of course, when it comes to the chocolate. And then you have Snyder's of Hanover, which has been around since 1909. They actually call Hanover the snack capital of the world.


0:25:46.5 AV: Big talk.


0:25:47.6 LB: Mm-hmm. But one of the most notable pretzel bakeries is the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, which was founded in Lititz, Pennsylvania, in 1861. And it was the first commercial bakery in America. And they're said to be the first makers of the hard pretzel. So that's where it came from. Yeah.


0:26:04.5 AV: What was the turning point? Was that intentional? Was it an accident? Did he leave a pretzel sitting out, and it just got stale, and he was like, "I've got an idea"?




0:26:14.1 LB: When Julius started making his pretzels, they were all soft pretzels, but because the pretzels were going stale too quickly, he had to sell them very fast, and he couldn't ship them far. So he thought, "What could I do to make them last a little bit longer?" If he could create more of a cracker-like pretzel, something that was a little harder, it would have a longer shelf life, and therefore he could actually, have a larger reach and could distribute the pretzel way outside of Pennsylvania. So that's what he did.


0:26:39.8 AV: Bring the pretzels to the people.


0:26:43.1 LB: Mm-hmm. He experimented and then finally figured out a recipe to create the first hard pretzel. And here's an exciting promo clip about the Julius Sturgis Bakery in Lititz, Pennsylvania.


0:26:54.6 Speaker 6: Lititz, PA, is filled with wonderful historic attractions, like the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery. At 219 East Main Street, you can take a tour of the bakery and get hands-on experience, twisting a pretzel from a ball of dough. You can also see the original ovens built by Julius Sturgis and learn the history of pretzel baking in America. They even have delicious treats and souvenirs in the Julius Sturgis Bakery store.


0:27:23.4 LB: And so Lititz, where the Julius Sturgis Bakery is, they have a pretzel festival that is an annual celebration of the town's pretzel history. And on April 30th of this year, that pretzel festival is happening again. So guys, get your tickets.




0:27:39.2 AV: Get your tickets. You want that VIP wristband.


0:27:41.4 LB: You do. You wanna eat all the pretzels there. And of course there are tons of food festivals everywhere. And for pretzels, you've got pretzel festivals around the world. There's one in particular, in Germany, and you're gonna help me say this correctly.


0:27:54.9 AV: I'm gonna do my best.


0:27:56.2 LB: Okay. They call this town the birthplace of the pretzel. And they have the Speyer Brezelfest.


0:28:04.0 AV: Yeah. Speyer.


0:28:06.2 LB: Speyer.


0:28:07.4 AV: There's gotta be a... Yeah. A throaty R in there somewhere. Speyer.


0:28:11.0 LB: Speyer Brezelfest.


0:28:12.8 AV: It's German. It's a German Brezelfest.


0:28:15.1 LB: Yes. It's a German Brezelfest. And it happens in mid-July. And this festival started in 1910, to celebrate and promote the city's breweries, pretzel bakeries and cigar factories. So, it's like actually kind of three different festivals all rolled into one. And the festival has everything. First of all, it opens with the mayor tapping a keg of beer.


0:28:35.9 AV: Oh my God.


0:28:36.5 LB: As any festival should start that way.


0:28:38.4 AV: Glorious.


0:28:39.4 LB: Yeah.


0:28:39.6 AV: I love it.


0:28:40.2 LB: They have things like a marathon. There's fireworks. You got a parade, pageants, a children's art fair. So the usual, the usual festival stuff.


0:28:49.7 AV: Amazing. That's one that you don't wanna... You don't wanna get a virtual pass. You wanna be there.


0:28:53.4 LB: You wanna be there. I think they said in recent years, there's usually like around 300,000 people that attend this festival.


0:29:00.6 AV: Whoa.


0:29:00.6 LB: Yeah. And also if you go to the website for the Brezelfest, the mascot is a creepy children's drawing of a person eating a pretzel. It's very weird. It kind of gave me nightmares.


0:29:14.5 AV: But my favorite part of that picture is that the child is wearing a mask.


0:29:18.1 LB: Yeah. That is true.


0:29:18.7 AV: Are we talking about the same thing?


0:29:19.7 LB: Yes. The child is masked.


0:29:20.1 AV: It's a drawing of a child trying to eat a pretzel, but the child is masked. It's very German. It's just like an existential...


0:29:30.1 LB: The Conflict.


0:29:30.9 AV: Logic problem.


0:29:33.3 LB: Yeah.


0:29:33.9 AV: How does the child eat the pretzel?


0:29:34.8 LB: It's a...


0:29:35.8 AV: Amazing.


0:29:36.5 LB: Yes. Please check it out. Check out the gallery of photos from the festival. I saw there was a photo of a woman whose hair was turned into a beer stein or the... It was in her hair, like a whole crazy hairdo.


0:29:49.5 AV: Whoa.


0:29:49.9 LB: Yeah.


0:29:51.5 AV: And they crown royalty. We've seen that at a couple other places that there's...


0:29:53.9 LB: Oh, yeah. The queen.


0:29:54.4 AV: The queen of the pretzels, or like princess pretzel or something.


0:29:57.8 LB: There's always a court.


0:30:00.3 AV: Well, it is Europe.


0:30:00.7 LB: That's true.


0:30:02.3 AV: They all hate the monarchy, but they gotta have it.


0:30:04.3 LB: But you gotta have it. So check it out guys, the Brezelfest.


0:30:08.7 AV: We'll link to it in the show notes. I know you can't wait to see it.


0:30:12.5 LB: So Anna, I'm gonna wrap up my segment by highlighting two very special pretzel people. The first person I wanna recognize is Helen Hoff. So this woman, in like the 20-teens, or 2014, 2015, was actually the world champion pretzel twister. So, she could hand-twist 57 pretzels per minute. Just imagine that.


0:30:35.3 AV: 57 pretzels per minute?


0:30:37.5 LB: Yes.


0:30:38.2 AV: So like a pretzel a second.


0:30:41.3 LB: Basically. Yep. She could take it, roll it, and then perfectly twist it into a beautiful, soft pretzel ready for boiling and baking.


0:30:47.9 AV: Whoa. I'm impressed.


0:30:49.6 LB: I am impressed too.


0:30:50.2 AV: It would probably take me three minutes to make one that I would be happy with.


0:30:54.1 LB: Oh, I would keep on doing it and be like, "This does not look right." One side would be too big.


0:30:58.4 AV: The proportions are off.


0:31:00.6 LB: Yeah. Exactly. And apparently when the Pretzel Museum was still open, she did do a demo there. So people were able to see Helen Hoff in action.


0:31:07.8 AV: Amazing.


0:31:08.8 LB: So, the second pretzel person I wanna mention is Auntie Anne. And we mentioned Auntie Anne at the top of the episode.


0:31:15.2 AV: Well, we mentioned the company and the delicious small pretzels, but I don't know if the people know that she's a real person. She's real.


0:31:23.0 LB: She's a real person, y'all.


0:31:24.2 AV: It's crazy. First Johnny Appleseed, now Auntie Anne.


[automated voice]


0:31:29.5 AV: Who's next? Santa? The Easter Bunny?


0:31:34.6 LB: They're all real.


0:31:35.4 AV: They're all real.


0:31:39.0 LB: Oh, but yes, Auntie Anne is a real person. Her actual name is Anne Beiler. And Anne grew up in an Amish Mennonite family on a farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.


0:31:49.9 AV: Pennsylvania.


0:31:50.9 LB: In the Pretzel Belt. Of course, she would be this amazing...


0:31:55.1 AV: Of course, she is, she's the crown Jewel of the... Jewel of the Pretzel Belt. She's the Buckle of the Snack. I don't know.




0:32:01.9 LB: She's the Buckle of the Pretzel Belt.




0:32:05.1 LB: And she was raised alongside seven brothers and sisters and became an aunt to like 30 nieces and nephews. So, that's why everyone started to call her Auntie Anne.


0:32:14.9 AV: Nice.


0:32:15.5 LB: And we actually have a clip here of Auntie Anne talking a little bit about what led her to starting her now, highly recognized and much loved pretzel company.


0:32:26.0 Speaker 7: Go back to the very beginning with this, if you will, how did you know how to make pretzels?


0:32:30.0 Speaker 8: Oh, I never knew how to make pretzels until I was 40.




0:32:33.6 Speaker 7: So, where did that...


0:32:34.2 Speaker 8: It was at a farmer's market in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. And I went to work to basically support my husband who was passionate about doing counseling for marriages. And he was doing it as a free service and obviously no money to undergird it. Yeah. And so I went to work basically to just to make a living.


0:32:57.2 S7: So pretzel seemed like a good idea.




0:33:00.7 S8: Well, the market stand that we bought had... They were selling pretzel.


0:33:03.7 S7: You were carrying on the...


0:33:05.1 S8: Yes. So it carried on what we bought and that's how it happened.


0:33:07.4 S7: You never really advertised, and yet this just took off like wildfire. How did that happen?


0:33:13.9 S8: Well, it happened because I knew what we had was a great product, and I did not let anyone walk past our store without giving them a sample of our Auntie Anne's pretzels.


0:33:23.0 S7: Smart, yeah.


0:33:24.3 S8: And that was really our form of advertising for many, many, many years. Just try it.And you'll love it.


0:33:30.4 LB: Her pretzels started to become more popular. And when she had the opportunity to grow that business with some equipment, that's when Auntie Anne's started to boom. And this was like in the late '80s. So, she had all the equipment that she needed to start making these pretzels to do it at scale. And she had the recipe, so it was perfect. And that's how we got Auntie Anne's.


0:33:51.4 AV: It's interesting, 'cause that is like, you don't see a lot of just free standing Auntie Anne's around, you really see them in malls. And if this boom came like in the late '80s, that's really when malls were the place to hang.


0:34:05.6 LB: It was perfect.


0:34:06.9 AV: If you weren't alive then, and you don't believe us, you can just watch Stranger Things.


0:34:10.6 LB: That's right. You'll love the mall.




0:34:13.0 AV: Just gonna go hang out, try on stuff you are not gonna buy, try to steal little earrings from Claire's.




0:34:18.7 LB: Oh, Claire's.


0:34:20.9 AV: That is so interesting. Thank you, Lia.


0:34:23.8 LB: You're welcome. And now I'm excited to dig into the Deep Dish with you, Anna, and hear more about the meaning of pretzels.


0:34:33.1 AV: Yes. We're gonna talk about the deep religious history of the pretzel.


0:34:37.0 LB: Ooh.


0:34:38.2 AV: There are people throughout history who have really believed that a pretzel will save your soul. So, we're gonna find out when we come back to the Deep Dish.




0:35:13.0 AV: So, Lia, it's funny because sometimes when I go to put together this Deep Dish, there's obviously a ton of research, there's writing, there's editing, there's deep thinking, 'cause I wanna bring you guys something really meaty. And sometimes I have this experience of wanting to do something esoteric and profound and scholarly and just shift your whole world view. And then I find out that pretzels may have been invented by a monk who was trying to bribe his students into paying attention, like a substitute teacher with a VHS of Saving Private Ryan.


0:35:44.7 LB: Right.




0:35:45.5 AV: And then I find out that there was a 1970's movement called Pretzels for God led by an ex-clown and...


0:35:51.9 LB: What?


0:35:52.7 AV: Well, that's the story.


0:35:53.6 LB: There we go.


0:35:55.1 AV: And that's what we're going with. And that's what we're going with today. So, building on what Lia told us earlier, we're gonna look deeper at the religious history of the pretzel, starting with its origin and then for like a millennia into the '70s.


0:36:09.1 LB: Ooh.


0:36:09.9 AV: You guys ready?


0:36:10.6 LB: I'm ready. I wanna hear about those clowns, sounds so crazy.




0:36:14.1 AV: We'll get there. But we'll get there. That's not the weird part.


0:36:16.8 LB: What?




0:36:19.4 AV: So the pretzel's religious background, whether in truth, practice or legend, it goes back over 1500 years. The legend, like Lia mentioned, was that a monk in the year 1610 AD needed his students to pay attention and learn their prayers. He was like, "Get with it little monklets."




0:36:38.9 AV: I don't know what you call junior monks.


0:36:40.5 LB: I like monklets.


0:36:41.9 AV: Like novices. Everything I know is from Sound of Music, or Sister Act, or the bombs that you drop occasionally about the Catholicism, and none of those had monks.




0:36:51.8 AV: So monklets, we're going with monklets. He went into the kitchen, and he saw that they were baking bread, and it was lent. So the 40 days before Easter, and there's a ton of restrictions, like you said, right? So there's no dairy, no eggs, no meat, no sugar, no nothing. So they were making a very simple bread out of just flour, water, and salt. And he took the strips of extra bread dough, and he twisted them into this knot. The knot, like Lia said, was supposed to represent the crossed arms, which is how monks prayed. So, the pressing the hands together, that was like a later fad. And then the idea that the three holes, the three openings were supposed to symbolize the light brought into the world by the Holy Trinity.


0:37:38.5 LB: Oh, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.


0:37:40.1 AV: The Father, Son, Holy Ghost. Holy Ghost. It's in the whole, in the pretzel. Anyway, he was like, "Hey, throw these in some lye." [laughter] And then brought them back to his students and gave it to them as bribe/rewards for learning their prayers correctly. So the name some think is related to that legend. Some say the word pretzel is derived from the word pretiola, which means little gift or little reward.


0:38:07.7 LB: Oh, interesting.


0:38:08.4 AV: And others say that the German word, which is brezel, comes from the Latin word bracellus, which means little arms.


0:38:16.2 LB: Yeah. Brezel is like... Yeah, that makes sense.


0:38:19.0 AV: Yeah. Brezels. Yeah. So we don't know if this is true, but it is a sweet story. And there's also a good chance that the pretzel started out linked to religion in some way, specifically Catholicism, 'cause it's like basically all they had.




0:38:33.0 LB: Yep.


0:38:33.6 AV: In 600 AD. There was nothing else to do, there was nothing else. Life was just about the church, right?


0:38:38.4 LB: Mm-hmm.


0:38:40.2 AV: And personally, I think that it's more likely that there is some symbolism to the shape, that it was intentional in some way. And not just like, you know what bread needs? Handles.


0:38:48.4 LB: Right. [laughter]


0:38:48.7 AV: Only my bread had handles.


0:38:50.4 LB: I could eat this better if it had handles, yeah.


0:38:54.7 AV: If I could just hook it on something, that would be great. It has stayed entwined with Catholicism for centuries. So moving to medieval times, the era, not the restaurant, the popularity of pretzels during lent and year-round, spread throughout Western Europe, specifically in the German speaking world. So what we now know as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, even Eastern France, along the German border. So it was sort of inextricably linked to German-ness, and it was sometimes referred to as the German biscuit. And pretzels continued to mostly be made by monks. You know, we talked about this in our episode where I told you all about my amazing trip to Portugal and the food there. Things like the ginjinha, the convent pastries, all that stuff's made by the monks and the nuns. And their positive and religious symbolism remained. So, like you said, Lia, there was connection, prosperity and spiritual fulfillment, and that sort of connection to prayer, because of the shape. It was actually something that churches would hand out to the poor, because it was like a simple self-contained food, thanks to the handles. [chuckle] Because of the symbolism, it was sort of supposed to be both physically and spiritually nurturing.


0:40:11.7 LB: Interesting.


0:40:14.2 AV: And then we even start to see Pretzels pop up in art and records, in sort of religious context and especially Lenten contexts. The oldest known depiction of a Pretzel comes from one of the first encyclopedias called Hortus Deliciarum that was published in 1185, and it was written by a nun named Herrad of Landsberg in the Alsace, the region of Eastern France, that's borders, Germany and Switzerland. So that's right. One of the oldest encyclopedias was written by a lady.


0:40:45.1 LB: I was gonna say, you're telling me a woman...


0:40:47.7 AV: A woman.


0:40:48.7 LB: Wrote one of the oldest encyclopedias and included the Pretzel in it.


0:40:51.4 AV: Indeed, indeed. Put that in your lye and bake it. I don't know. [chuckle] And in the encyclopedia, there is a painting of the last supper, and on the table, is a pretzel.


0:41:06.4 LB: What, Jesus ate a pretzel?




0:41:08.6 AV: Jesus ended his last meal with a pretzel. And you start to see portraits of the last supper or things related to Lent and Easter with pretzels hidden in them. There was a Bruegel painting I saw, from 15 whatever.


0:41:26.2 LB: Oh my God.


0:41:27.1 AV: It was a scene set in Lent, and there was a pile of pretzels.


0:41:30.4 LB: Oh my gosh. This would have made religion class so much more interesting for me. If we had talked about the pretzels involved. [chuckle]


0:41:37.5 AV: Just needed more snacks and catechism.


0:41:40.9 LB: Yeah.


0:41:41.0 AV: There was another instance, a few centuries later, where pretzels did seem to give divine protection. So according to the history channel, when Ottoman Turks attempted to invade Vienna, Austria, by digging tunnels underneath the city walls, monks baking pretzels in the basement of a monastery heard the enemies progress, and alerted the authorities and the rest of the city, which helped them defeat the Turkish attack.


0:42:06.9 LB: [chuckle] Whoa.


0:42:07.5 AV: And as a reward, the Austrian emperor gave pretzel bakers, their own coat of arms. And what's crazy is that is still all over Western Europe.


0:42:16.8 LB: So you see this like...


0:42:18.2 AV: Yes, so if you go to a bakery, they'll be in a logo, on the sign, hanging outside the door, they'll be like in stain glass windows, and in designs. The official symbol of the baker's guild is two lions standing on their back legs, holding a pretzel between them.




0:42:37.4 LB: What?


0:42:37.7 AV: Isn't that crazy?


0:42:38.8 LB: I want that on my crest. Can that be my family crest?




0:42:44.8 AV: But the best thing is that they're... Somebody drawing lions, obviously in the 1500s when no one had ever seen a lion. So they just look like long hairy dogs.


0:42:54.6 LB: Aha [chuckle]


0:42:57.7 AV: And like you told us about tying the knot, pretzel started to move outside of Lent but still tied to religious ceremonies like weddings. So we're gonna yada yada, yada, a little bit, pretzels come to America on the Mayflower or other. [chuckle] And they start to expand. For a while we get a little less religious and a little more capitalistic.


0:43:18.4 LB: Oh.


0:43:19.3 AV: As we know, the pretzel and the beer connection, undeniable right?


0:43:22.8 LB: Mm-hmm.


0:43:24.6 AV: So let's talk a little bit about the expansion of beer in the United States, just real quickly. In the Midwest, in the mid 1800s, there was a big expansion of brewing companies because of German immigrants.


0:43:37.0 LB: They needed their beer. [laughter]


0:43:38.4 AV: Came to the new world, it was missing beer, right? One of these German immigrants was Eberhard Anheuser, who came to the US in 1843. He bought a Bavarian brewing company in St. Louis and named it Anheuser and Co. Then in 1861, his daughter Lily, married a man named Adolphus Busch, who went to work at his father-in-law's brewery. And in 1879, the company became Anheuser-Busch.


0:44:04.8 LB: Interesting.


0:44:07.2 AV: I bet if I dug into this, it would be all Lily. They're just saying like, "Oh, and then he married Lily," and blah, blah, blah... No, no, no, no, no. I guarantee you, she came up with the recipe for Budweiser.


0:44:18.8 LB: Oh yeah.


0:44:19.4 AV: It was her business plan. This was all Lily.


0:44:22.1 LB: It had to be.


0:44:22.8 AV: Right?


0:44:23.3 LB: Come on. I mean, that's what we're finding out. [chuckle]


0:44:25.6 AV: Yeah, that's what we keep saying. I was like, this is gonna be a totally... An Ella Kellogg invented cereal situation. Or how it was actually Margaret Hellmann's recipe for Mayo.


0:44:37.6 LB: Right?


0:44:40.1 AV: Yeah.


0:44:40.9 LB: Ah totally. Poor murdered Margaret. May she rest in peace.






0:44:45.1 AV: So up until now, beer had been made and consumed locally. 'Cause like you were saying with the pretzels, there was no way to transport it, right?


0:44:52.4 LB: Yeah.


0:44:53.0 AV: But Anheuser had a vision of refrigerating and shipping beer, and therefore making it national. So he had the idea to make one signature lager style beer, figure out how to transport it and make it like the beer of America, the national beer.


0:45:09.6 LB: Ah.


0:45:10.4 AV: And so he did that. And the beer, he called it Budweiser. [laughter] Other brewing companies adopted this model, businesses grew, brewing grew, and instead of sending sales reps all over the place to try to get their beer sold, what they would do is they would basically sponsor whole saloons.


0:45:26.9 LB: Oh, genius.


0:45:28.6 AV: Yeah, so they would sponsor a saloon and the saloon could only serve their beer, but then saloons were all competing against each other, the brewers were competing against each other through the salons, and so one of the things that helped was having some salty snacks around.


0:45:44.5 LB: Oh yeah. It's like, how could you stand out?


0:45:47.0 AV: Exactly. And you want people to drink more, so you give them some salty, they're gonna want the beer.


0:45:51.8 LB: Yep.


0:45:52.6 AV: So the German breweries reached out to the local German communities who made pretzels.


0:46:00.2 LB: The pretzels.


0:46:02.6 AV: Yes, so we're starting to see the pretzel open up from being something religious and regional to something being consumed widely. So then in the early 1900s, things take a little bit of a dip. But it all turns out okay. So if you wanna know more about prohibition, I did a very deep, Deep Dish in the Margaritas Episode about the 'causes of prohibition, how we got there and the effects and including my favorite human, Carrie A Nation.


0:46:33.1 LB: Oh my God.


0:46:34.2 AV: Hatchet-wielding, proselytizing hero. So if you wanna know more about Prohibition, please go back and listen to the Margaritas Episode. So pretzels took some big hits at the beginning of the 20th century, 1917 to 1918, when World War I was starting, there was a lot of anti-German sentiment, which included foods, okay? And the Prohibitions advocates used this negative association with Germans and pubs to build support for the 18th amendment, and in 1918, even the LA Times declared the pretzel too German to be taken seriously.


0:47:06.2 LB: No way.


0:47:07.1 AV: Yes. How dare you? And officially in January 1920, Prohibition passed. So the relationships with saloons were gone for pretzel makers, so they needed to pivot. But they also noticed that the sales in bakeries and stores were rising. And that Julius Sturgis had figured out how to mass produce these things, right?


0:47:28.8 Speaker 3: Yep.


0:47:29.1 AV: So they thought that maybe people were bringing them home to have them with their home brew.


0:47:35.9 LB: Makes sense.


0:47:36.9 AV: So after a couple of years of dipping, they survived and thrived. So that by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, it had become a snack that stood on its own, we started seeing pretzel rods and sticks because they needed to manufacture them faster, and it was faster without the flip and twist, right? And then the Redding Pretzel Machinery Company introduced the Automatic Pretzel Making Machine in 1935, and the rest is history.


0:48:02.1 LB: The rest is history. That is such a crazy path for the pretzel to take.


0:48:08.4 AV: Right? It isn't until the 1970s that one brave woman decided to bring pretzels back to their Catholic roots. There was a woman named Marlene McCauley. In the early 1970s, she was an artist in Arizona. She was a clown, a circus performer.


0:48:31.7 LB: I was gonna say like a real clown.


0:48:33.6 AV: Yeah, a circus performer, a puppeteer, puppet creator, created puppet shows, she was a painter, she was also a devout Catholic. She was married to her husband, Allen, and she had five children.


0:48:46.2 LB: Yep, that sounds Catholic.


0:48:48.0 AV: It's catholic. She was very disturbed by the trends that were happening in the Catholic Church. At that point, there was an overall decline in Americans participating in organized religion, there was an overall decline with people who were identifying themselves as religious, and this was especially true for Catholics. Basically, people were leaving the Catholic Church in droves, attendance was tanking. A few reasons for that, one was the changes from the mid-60s from Vatican II. You can probably explain this much better than I can, but there were attempts to modernize the church, and some of them involved like, no longer doing mass in Latin, but regional languages, changing liturgy, relaxing some rules, and some Catholics left in protest. Some Catholics left because they didn't recognize the church anymore, and they wanted to find something that was more spiritually fulfilling for them. And then another reason was the rise of new agey-guru culty stuff in the '70s where we get our delightful cult shows.


0:49:49.8 LB: That's right, Osho.


0:49:52.0 AV: People were opening their minds to Osho, and what were they? Do and Ti? Osho, to fraud, and weird sex stuff.


0:50:04.9 LB: Yep.


0:50:05.1 AV: That's all it is, tax fraud and weird sex stuff. Anyway, so Marlene was really afraid that this was going to make the family weak, which would make America weak, and she felt what was needed for people to rally around the Catholic Church, to return to the Catholic church was a symbol. And remember, we talked a ton about symbols in the Apple Pie Episode, and how powerful it is to pick something for people to identify with, and it helps if it's yummy.


0:50:32.3 LB: Yeah, can't go wrong there.


0:50:34.5 AV: So she wanted something wholesome, pleasant, familiar, associated with Christianity, and she settled on the pretzel.


0:50:43.4 LB: Good choice.


0:50:44.5 AV: Makes as much sense as anything else, right?


0:50:46.5 LB: Yeah.


0:50:47.3 AV: She decided to make pretzels the center of a new movement. And so in 1973, she founded the organization, Pretzels for God, also known as PFG. This was at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Phoenix, Arizona. And it has... I mean, it looks like a real thing. They had a logo, it was sort of a stamp of a pretzel in red, and then each of the holes of the pretzel was the letters P, F, and G. They had a credo. It was prayer for God plus penance for God equals family for God. There's no mention of pretzels in there.


0:51:27.5 LB: Yeah. Where are the pretzels at?


0:51:29.5 AV: I don't know. I don't know. And then in an interview, Marlene said, kind of her philosophy behind all this, which was prayer and penance draws individuals near to God. When man loves God, he will become closely united with family and God. The family is the root of society. When the family is strong in God's love, America is strong. I don't know how we get to pretzels...


0:51:52.3 LB: Yeah, where's the pretzel? [laughter]


0:51:55.0 AV: So that's where she was coming from.


0:51:56.8 LB: Got it. Okay.


0:51:58.7 AV: So going back to Lent, there was a big push for pretzels to be part of Lent again. One of the changes from Vatican, too, was the strict fasting for Lent had been lifted. So there was more wiggle room and you could have a more personalized experience of your yearly Lent. So she came up with the pretzel prayer, and the pretzel ceremony.


0:52:20.2 LB: What? Again, why didn't they teach me this in school? I would have been all about a pretzel prayer.


0:52:26.3 AV: I don't know. [laughter] I mean, as crazy as this sounds, if I got free pretzels, I'd be way more interested, right?


0:52:32.2 LB: Yeah, exactly. [laughter]


0:52:33.5 AV: So the pretzel ceremony was on Ash Wednesday, so the first day of Lent, parents were to explain to their children the religious origins of the pretzel, how is it a symbol of prayer, because of the knot and shape then they were to serve a homemade pretzel with dinner every night of Lent for 40 days.


0:52:52.0 LB: Whoa! I would have loved Lent. [laughter]


0:52:53.9 AV: I mean, you think pretzel month is indulgent.


0:52:57.4 LB: Yeah.


0:52:57.7 AV: You get pretzel 40 days, man.


0:53:00.5 LB: Forty days.


0:53:01.0 AV: Yep, and then every meal, they serve the pretzel and then they started with the pretzel prayer, which goes, if you all wanna bow your heads.


0:53:06.7 LB: Oh, I would like to, yes, please, close my eyes, bow my head. [laughter]


0:53:10.9 AV: Grant us, we pray, that we too may be reminded of the daily sight of these pretzels to observe the holy season of Lent with true devotion and great spiritual fruit.




0:53:38.9 AV: Amen.


0:53:40.0 LB: Amen. Wow. [laughter]


0:53:40.7 AV: This group, this organization, was very active. They published literature, they did press, they appeared in write-ups in all those church newsletters. You know, the church newsletters?


0:53:50.8 LB: Oh, yes. I do.


0:53:52.5 AV: Different chapters across the US and the chapters would have pretzel baking demonstrations. They would do pretzel bake sales, they would have pretzel crafting and jewelry workshops. Something that was very popular was pretzel-shaped necklaces, which then, after you made them, you would wear as a symbol of your faith. [laughter] So I found a picture of her at what looks like... We'll post this on Instagram. An image of her that looks like she's at like a pretzel-themed Lent party.


0:54:26.2 LB: Interesting.


0:54:26.3 AV: I'll describe it. I'll describe it.


0:54:27.5 LB: Yeah, describe this... Set the scene.


0:54:29.8 AV: She's in a living room which, first of all, the mantel behind her is like covered in religious stuff like really... Like Carrie's Mom stuff, right? There's a whole...


0:54:40.4 LB: Oh, sounds like my home. [laughter]


0:54:44.2 AV: Your childhood home?


0:54:45.0 LB: Yeah, my childhood home. Let's get the...


0:54:46.5 AV: Not the current home?


0:54:48.7 LB: No.


0:54:49.2 AV: There's like a giant painting of Jesus, and then there's like a Jesus candelabra. It looks like a menorah, but obviously not a menorah, but like each candlestick is Jesus with a candle, I'm guessing goes in his head. I'm not totally sure. And lots of other sort of relic-type things. She's wearing a pretzel-shape necklace, and I'm pretty sure pretzel-shaped earrings. On the table, is a very large basket with a huge pretzel in the middle of it and then lots of like smaller pretzels all around it.


0:55:16.5 LB: Oh.


0:55:17.3 AV: But the centerpiece, the focal point, is another large basket ringed with lilies, right, sign of spring, and then in the middle is a 4 foot high puppet of a monk.


0:55:31.3 LB: A puppet of a monk?


0:55:33.3 AV: Yes. She went back to her puppeteering roots.


0:55:36.2 LB: Yeah.


0:55:36.7 AV: And so it is a monk but a puppet.


0:55:40.0 LB: Wow.


0:55:40.5 AV: So it's got like the big round head and then like the derpy arms...


0:55:44.4 LB: Yeah, where they just kind of flop, right?


0:55:47.0 AV: Yeah, and then like the robe, which the robe's good for puppeteering, right?


0:55:50.8 LB: That's actually a great, yeah, puppet character to make.


0:55:53.2 AV: Yeah, and then in one hand, he's got a giant pretzel, and then on the other hand, he's holding a dove.


0:55:58.5 LB: Oh, a nice dove of peace.


0:56:00.0 AV: Yeah, dove of peace.


0:56:01.0 LB: And a pretzel for God. [laughter]


0:56:02.2 AV: Pretzel of prayer, pretzel for God. It is as disturbing and delightful as you're all imagining. [laughter] But the thing is, the pretzels for God, like kind of caught on. So according to an article by Shoshi Parks in Gastro Obscura, in 1974, Marlena spoke, she was a keynote speaker at the 34th annual convention of the National Pretzel Bakers Institute.


0:56:29.0 LB: Whoa.


0:56:29.9 AV: And she wanted to get the, "Pretzel men" officially on board, with her pretzels for God movement. And in her speech, she said, "God has been cast aside. The old immorality is now the new morality. And the only solution is pretzels." No, I added that last part. [laughter] In her speech, McCauley argued that America needed a potent religious symbol, something to rally Christians to rediscover prayer and penance in America, and she believed it was in desperate need of the pretzel.


0:57:04.0 LB: Wow. I mean, she's kind of thinking like that Italian monk. He's like, "How am I going to get kids to learn their prayers? Pretzels."


0:57:10.9 AV: Kind of. There should have been like, if you come to church, you get a pretzel, like there should have been some sort of... There should have been more bribery.


0:57:17.7 LB: What if we had communion pretzels?


0:57:19.9 AV: Oh my God.


0:57:21.3 LB: Yeah.


0:57:21.9 AV: Amazing.


0:57:22.7 LB: Communion pretzel. Like forget a little wafer. The body of Christ is a pretzel. [laughter]


0:57:27.3 AV: Body of Christ is a pretzel with like Welch's grape juice. That sounds elite. I'll be on board.


[overlapping conversation]


0:57:33.5 LB: Yeah. [laughter]


0:57:33.8 AV: Amazing. All right, so pretzels for God going strong, but here's where it gets weird.


0:57:40.5 LB: Wait, it's not weird already. [laughter]


0:57:43.8 AV: Well, you can be the judge of which part was... Okay, so another element or motivation of this was that Marlene was obsessed with and worshipped a 17th century Native American woman who she had adopted as her personal saint. So this woman, her name was Kateri Tekakwitha. I'm doing my best. And she was nicknamed "Lily of the Mohawks." So she was an Algonquin Mohawk woman born in 1656 outside of what is now Albany. As a child, she contracted smallpox. Her whole family died, she survived. But her face was covered in horrible small pox scars. She converted to Catholicism and was baptized at the age of 19. She refused to marry and instead took a vow of perpetual virginity, and moved to a Jesuit mission village near what is now Montreal. She died in that mission in 1680 at the age of 24. And witnesses said, that moments after her death, all the smallpox scars vanished and she became beautiful and radiant again.


0:58:58.8 AV: And she became kind of a respected figure, a patron saint of the indigenous Catholics in that area. And they started petitions for her canonization in the 1880s based on her virtues of chastity, mortification of the flesh, transformation after death, and having been shunned by her community for turning to Catholicism. And then in 1943, she was venerated by Pope Pius XII. And she was the fourth Native American to ever be venerated. Now, you will notice, Lia, none of this has anything to do with pretzels.


0:59:29.1 LB: I thought you were gonna say at her death bed, a pretzel appeared or something like that.


0:59:34.8 AV: Her last words were, "Bring me a pretzel, Jesus."


0:59:38.5 LB: Pretzels for God.


0:59:40.6 AV: No, no, absolutely nothing. So for some reason, 300 years later, Marlena becomes obsessed with this woman. Now, here's where this actually comes from. One of Marlena's sons suffered from a condition that was making him go deaf. She prayed to Kateri, and his hearing loss was restored. Now, I'm saying that as though they're connected. We don't know that they're connected, there could have just been doctors. I don't know. She credited that to Kateri and called it a miracle. So this was all sort of a strategy. She wanted to have a saint associated with PFG, Pretzels For God, 'cause it would make it more legit, make it more Catholic-y. But also, she wanted to get Kateri canonized. She wanted to push through the canonization, which had started the ball rolling 30 years earlier. And she thought this would be like good PR, to get her in the zeitgeist.


1:00:35.6 LB: That's right.


1:00:36.6 AV: I found, because the internet will provide, the Spring 1975 Lily of The Mohawks newsletter from the Kateri Tekakwitha League of Clarence Center, New York, which is a suburb of Buffalo that is seven minutes from the house I grew up in. It's all very strange. There's an article about Marlena and PFG. There's a photo of Marlena painting a massive portrait of Kateri standing in front of a river surrounded by multicultural children, 'cause she brought people of all nations together. I'm being delicate, 'cause there's a lot of this stuff that by today's standards is just painfully racist. It would get you cancelled. Anyway, this kind of worked.


1:01:17.3 LB: Really?


1:01:18.4 AV: Yeah. In 1975, she'd gotten so much attention for Pretzels For God, that she went to Rome and met with Pope John Paul II.


1:01:27.5 LB: JP II.


1:01:29.5 AV: JP II. She got, what do they call it, an audience with the pope.


1:01:32.8 LB: Yeah, she got an audience with the Pope. Wow, that's so rare.


1:01:35.6 AV: She got an audience to tell him more about her work to install more reverence for prayer and penance via pretzels, and she advocated for the canonization of Kateri. And do you know what she did to try to convince the Pope to beatify her?


1:01:52.7 LB: I don't know, did she bake him some special pretzels?


1:01:56.9 AV: Oh, she brought them puppets.


1:02:00.1 LB: She did?


1:02:00.3 AV: She had devised an entire puppet show about Kateri, and she did the puppet show for the Pope.


1:02:09.2 LB: That's amazing.


1:02:10.9 AV: Pretzels for God, puppets for the Pope.


1:02:12.4 LB: Wow!


1:02:13.9 AV: I know, right? You didn't see this going in this direction, did you, when I said Pretzels For God? Did you think this was happening? No. So in 1980, John Paul II, JP II did beatify her, which I guess is like pre-approving for canonization, right?


1:02:28.8 LB: Right. Yeah.


1:02:29.9 AV: Well, well, well, it worked. And so Marlena lived to see Kateri become the first Native American saint in 2012.


1:02:40.9 LB: That's incredible. Look what she did, I did not...


1:02:44.1 AV: Did you think that the Pretzels for God was going to end up at the first Native American saint? I didn't.


1:02:49.1 LB: I did not think this is the path that we would take.


1:02:54.0 AV: So PFG kind of dissolved around the late '70s, early '80s. Not really sure, maybe she decided to go back to her career in the circus. I'm not sure why.


1:03:01.5 LB: She didn't know how much power she had in her puppets until then?


1:03:05.2 AV: Like, ride that. But you see she kept advocating for Kateri, and she actually wrote three books. One was called, Adventures with the Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, The Lily of the Mohawk in 1992, Song of Kateri: Princess of the Eucharist in 2005. And she wrote a book called, Whitey from Heaven... : A Wondrous Cat. And it is a fiction book about how a scraggly white cat was sent from heaven to a grieving widow. And through caring for the cat, she learned to love again.


1:03:37.0 LB: That's actually so sweet.


1:03:38.3 AV: Isn't that so sweet?


1:03:40.2 LB: That is really sweet.


1:03:40.5 AV: Marlena, she's like an onion.


1:03:42.3 LB: Wow!


1:03:44.6 AV: So that's the story of Pretzels for God and Kateri Tekakwitha is informally known to this day as the Patron Saint of pretzels.


1:03:52.5 LB: Boom!


1:03:55.7 AV: Goodnight everybody.


1:03:56.9 LB: Who knew?


1:03:58.3 AV: Who knew? So there you go.


1:04:00.3 LB: Oh my gosh.


1:04:01.2 AV: I can not wait to see what the holy pretzel does next. I love talking about food. I love doing this with you, Lia, because how else would I come across crazy stories like that? When you start with food as a jumping off point, it goes in directions like you would never, never think of.


1:04:18.4 LB: Pretzels, puppets, the Pope. Oh my God.


1:04:22.3 AV: The three Ps. There's a new Holy Trinity.


1:04:26.3 LB: Perfect. Anna, that was remarkable. My life is forever changed.


1:04:32.3 AV: I hope you enjoyed it. I hope every time you have a pretzel from now on, it's even more profound experience.


1:04:37.8 LB: I'll never eat a pretzel the same way again.




1:04:44.3 S10: 364 days till the next Pretzel Day.




1:04:53.9 LB: Thank you for joining us for this episode of Every Day is a Food Day. Be sure to follow the show and catch up on past episodes wherever you get your podcast. Connect with us on social media @FoodDayPod. Join our mailing list through our website, yumday.co/podcast, and don't forget to leave us that rating and review.


1:05:11.7 AV: The clips and music you heard today were: The Office, from NBC Universal. The Twist, by Chubby Checker. Who Will Save Your Soul, by Jewel. The Great Amen, by St. Simon and Jude, Roman Catholic Church choir in Bethlem, Pennsylvania, the 700 Club, and the Pennsylvania Dutch Country Video Tour.


1:05:29.7 LB: Every day is a Food Day is a production of Van Valin Productions and Yumday. It is produced and hosted by us, Lia Ballentine and Anna Van Valin.

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