Big Pretzels for Jer

Growing up in north central Pennsylvania was to grow up in pretzel country. We knew lots of different kinds and twists  of pretzels — stick pretzels, soft ballpark pretzels, pretzels that were the size of two thumbs, penny pretzels from glass jars. But the prize pretzels of our youths were Hard Pretzels. They were the same size as a smaller diameter, somewhat softer pretzel, which featured ordinary salt. The Hard Pretzels had rock salt, and weren’t allowed if you had a bad tooth or soft jaws. They could be sucked on and teachers wouldn’t know you were eating in class. They cost more than the penny pretzels, maybe 2–3 cents apiece,  so Daddy would only buy them for us kids on special occasions.

I assumed hard pretzels would be found everywhere, but as I got married and Jer and I moved from Pennsylvania to Virginia to Wyoming to Long Island back to Wyoming to Kansas and finally to Portland, we lost them. In some places we could find a store that carried a box of two, but mostly not. And then in Portland, somehow, a whole supply of Snyder’s (of Hanover) Hard Pretzels were available.

Jan became addicted. The grandkid couldn’t enter the house without checking the pretzel cupboard. Jer took them to his computer by the box full. And then, one month a few years ago, they disappeared. No store in Portland stocked them. The cupboard was bare. Oh, there were other wimpy pretzels, neither here nor there ones, a bit too big for a single bite, but so wimpy in chewiness that even with a tooth ache, they were bearable. Jer could go through a bag of these nonentities a night. I found them so distasteful I scarcely snacked on them at all.

Then one day, Freddy’s (the discount store, Fred Meyer, to non-Portlanders) started carrying a few boxes. We bought out all we could find every time we were near Fred’s, which probably deprived Rick and Jan of finding any for their own cupboards. The supply was always low, just on the verge of not being there at all. But a box or two crept back into our diets every couple of weeks.

Then last  Saturday, Jan and I were at the Big Freddy’s (off Broadway near SE 28th) and there, there! was the supply we had to buy:

Seven boxes of Snyder’s of Hanover Sourdough Pretzels, good with mustard, good as midnight snacks, good for editing Wikipedia, good for the morale of the homestead. We thought of sending some home with Jan, but because seven was such an outrageous number (we took all Fred had in stock), we decided to pile them up, just to see Jer’s astonished delight. Which we did. And now it’s Tuesday and there are only 5 boxes left. But we won’t raid the Hawthorne Freddy’s, so Jan might find some there. –June

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6 Responses to Big Pretzels for Jer

  1. Jay says:

    Reva lived near Ephrata. People lived there for whom all the world was their cloister. As a kid I met an old lady who was presented to me as the last of the cloisterers. She had lived a celibate life and had had a block of wood for a pillow. But not all was a denial of luxury as she had a big box of Hanover’s pretzels that she shared. Years later I took a tour of the Hanover factory where steel fingers braided the dough before the pretzels-to-be were conveyed to a big oven and then on to destinations unknown.

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  2. janetl says:

    Oh, yes — mustard!
    I don’t know about lye in making hard pretzels, but when I made soft pretzels at Lancaster’s Dutch Wonderland, they went through a caustic soda bath. They were moistened in the nasty soda water, then sprinkled with the enormous salt crystals, then baked. Mmmmmm!

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  3. june says:

    Sucking off the salt is good, but virtue required eating the rest of the pretzel!

    And in the NY Times online today, I found a story about hand-made, “authentic” German pretzels in NYC. Made with lye, no less. I don’t know if Snyder’s does this — perhaps I’ll have to check their dizzying website to see if they give any clues.

    WordPress, by the way, has declined suddenly, to pass along these comments. So I’m slow to respond. My apologies to you and my snarks to my favorite blog server. I’ve been praising WordPress quite strongly lately and suddenly, they’ve failed me. Sigh.

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  4. Lia says:

    Ha! Love it. I have a story about those Snyder’s pretzels, but I’ll have to email it.

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  5. Reva says:

    My Proustian snack was Philly _soft_ pretzels — with mustard, of course. But when I lived in Reading-Ephrata-Lancaster, I learned to appreciate Snyders of Hanover. Hmm, maybe I’ll stop by the Hawthorne Freddie’s and see if I can score a box.

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  6. Terry Grant says:

    I think pretzel-eating is possibly just one way of making sure you get a good ration of salt! To me that is the best thing about pretzels. As a child I just sucked the salt off and threw the soggy, tasteless thing that remained away.

    Always nice to find a nostalgic childhood favorite in the local grocery. I spotted a supply of Idaho Spud bars at Haagen’s the other day, but resisted them–for now.

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