Justin Dodd of the Mental Floss series Food History explains how the pretzel moved beyond its narrow theological origins to become one of the most popular snack foods in the world.
The history of pretzels is almost as twisted and delicious as the salty treats. Some say the origins of pretzels are rooted in Christianity, others in paganism. So… how did they end up as street food and baseball game fare?
Dodd goes on to explain how hard pretzels came to be.
In 1861, 26-year-old entrepreneur Julius Sturgis opened a pretzel bakery in Lititz, Pennsylvania. According to one version of the story, he left a batch in the oven for too long one day, but instead of throwing them out, he gave the well-done morsels a taste. In addition to being delicious, these dry, brittle pretzels lasted much longer than the kind he normally made. Sturgis perfected his hard pretzel recipe and began selling them as a shelf-stable, snackable alternative to the soft variety people were familiar with.
Dodd also talks about the enduring popularity of the soft pretzel, particularly those sold by street and ballpark vendors.
The treat’s portability made it a no-brainer for street cart vendors. And once it’s baked, the recipe requires no additional ingredients—other than a dollop of mustard, of course.