Pretzels are one of the most utilitarian beer snacks. They’re really just funny shaped, salty bread rolls. If you get a fancy one, it might have some sunflower seeds stuck to its crusty brown skin but, generally, they are served plain. From what looks like a mug tree.
Their only purpose, as eaten in German pubs, is to slow down the process of getting drunk (or, to use the scientific term, “put the brakes on drunkening up”) and fend off hunger pangs so you can stay in the beer hall/garden/festival tent for longer.
At Oktoberfest, women in dirndls wander round with huge baskets full of correspondingly huge pretzels, the size of dinner plates. In Nuremberg, they’re sold in the streets, layered thick with slices of cold butter, as an excellent breakfast snack.
The official website of the German Agricultural Marketing Board for the US and Canada says this on the history of the pretzel:
The humble pretzel has come a long way since its modest origins in 610 A.D. when Italian monks made them from leftover bread-dough scraps. Once considered a holy food with healing powers and, in modern times, parodied as the snack that launched a surprise attack on our 42nd president, the basic flour and water pretzel has been an American staple ever since European immigrants brought the recipe with them to U.S. shores in the 18th and 19th century.
They then go on to argue that Americans should only eat pretzels imported from Germany. That seems a bit excessive to me — surely they’ll be stale if you ship them over, and I think flying warm pretzels across the Atlantic is more of an extravagance than Bono flying his hat home in business class.
Anyway, here’s the official German Agriculture Board approved recipe for Pretzels. Ignore the honey dip stuff. It’s really pretty simple, except for the cryptic instruction to “cross to form rabbit ears”. Translation: make it pretzel shaped. Use the photos above for reference, or just your memory.
So, why not skip dinner tonight, and just eat four or five of these with your Saturday night lagers…?