I went to a BBQ yesterday and I stopped by the store on the way to pick up some snacks. I bought a bag of pretzels. Principally because I love pretzels and pretzels are awesome.
I’m talking about the dry, crunchy, salty, mass-produced pretzels that come in a bag and are a staple snack food (and which can, incidentally, be double dipped in mustard dip, onion dip, or whatever other communal condiment you wish to sully).
So there I was at the picnic table, crunching away at my Rold Gold pretzel thins, when another guest shows up with – prepare yourself – a box of fresh, warm, hand-rolled, Philly-style soft pretzels from a local pretzel bakery. Damn do I love pretzels. And those were pretzels.
Normally when it comes to fresh pretzels, I’m less classy and I settle for Auntie Anne’s pretzels, an American shopping mall food court essential. I grew up eating Auntie Anne’s pretzels. I am physically incapable of passing one of their warm-sweet-buttery-salty-smelling franchises without buying one of the warm-sweet-buttery-salty-tasting pretzels. Indeed, an Auntie Anne’s pretzel was my first purchase upon my return to the US in January (paid for with my vestigial collection of coins which barely covered the pretzel plus tax). Now that was money well spent.
Pretzels are a typically American snack, but we must give thanks to their German forefathers. It is no mistake that Auntie Anne’s is from Lancaster, Pennsylvania or that Rold Gold pretzel company is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was the German-speaking immigrants to Pennsylvania in the 17th and 18th centuries (the so-called Pennsylvania Dutch) who introduced the bretzel to the new world. And what a wonderful contribution to our cultural heritage they made.
I spent one summer living in Philadelphia, and I gorged myself on pretzels. I remember intentionally showing up to the Auntie Anne’s pretzel shop shortly before their closing time and ordering only one pretzel, knowing full well that they would offer me a dozen pretzels from their excess stock for free (since there was nothing else they could do with the extra pretzels at the end of the day except throw them away). That was a good summer.