The actual where, when, and how surrounding the invention of the pretzel varies with much debate. What remains clear is that the pretzel rules in Bavaria, this southeastern corner of Germany. The pretzel is also Mrs Smith’s favorite food. She likes them all, from the crunch snack cracker variety to the soft, freshly baked offerings of Wetzel Pretzel. Call it luck, coincidence, or good planning that we ended up at pretzel central on our journey.
The pretzels here have a firm, almost crunchy crust with a soft, bready inside. They are not served hot, or even warm. Yet, their sponginess suggests that are baked freshly daily. While they share flavor notes with those cracker-like ones in a bag, they of course are bigger and softer. Still, they are not nearly as soft as the mall kiosk variety, which rarely have a firm bite. They are probably most like the New York pretzel stands, but much fresher.
Bavarians treat their pretzel much like Americans would a bagel or bread. They slice it in half and add spreads or fillings. In the morning, locals often have it butter (yes, just cold plain butter – better than it sounds) or perhaps butter or cream cheese with chives. At lunchtime, there could be cheese or cheese and salami in the middle. The also come in sweet varieties and with toppings like pumpkin seeds.
In Nuremberg, one pretzel stand has a monopoly – Brezen Kolb. Walking from our airport to the train station, about a 10 minute walk, we saw five Brezen Kolb kiosks.
At night, when Brezen Kolb is closed, pretzels can be had at nearly every brathaus and bierhaus in town.
The Bavarian pretzel caught us a bit off-guard. We didn’t know what to expect and weren’t accustomed to how the locals eat them. However, in the spirit of our food blog, we continued to eat them until we developed a true appreciation for this regional food that has adapted itself to all sorts of cultures around the world. While we did not stop at all five Brezan Kolbs on our way out of town, we did stop at one to bid a final butter-and-chive-filled farewell to the home of the pretzel.