Microphallic symbols from Pretzelvania

(Content warning: considerable phallic talk, but with distanced vocabulary and no vivid images.)

It started back on 7/22 with a Facebook ad for the pretzels.com (hereafter, P.C) company, a page of (highly flavored) pretzel sticks looking routinely rod-like and therefore phallic — plus, you put them in your mouth, and they’re salty, like, whew, semen (for some of us, this is in fact a plus, but de gustibus non est disputandum).

(#1) In other words: eat me!

I sent away for some P.C pretzel sticks to see what they were like — brief answer, variously yummy (I tried the beer cheese, buttermilk ranch, and green chile bbq flavors), but tiny and cute (like 1.5in long), so if phallic, then microphallic (see below) — and then more recently ordered in some everyday pretzel rods (from Snyder’s of Hanover (PA)), which turn out to be of gay-porn standard length (just over 7in, significantly above the American phallic mean, which is roughly 5.5in, with a standard deviation of roughly .5in, so that most of us are between 5 and 6 inches, and about 95% of us between 4.5 and 6.5 inches).

Then, P.C makes a lot of being “baked fresh in “Pretzel Country” Pennsylvania, home to the very first commercial pretzel company”. Pretzelvania turns out — unsurprisingly — to be pretty much Pennsylvania Dutch Country (PaDuCo), which is where I was born and grew up, just up the road from a third southeastern PA pretzel company, Tom Sturgis Pretzels (“America’s First Pretzel Baking Family”), in the Reading area.

So, to come, the three Ps: pretzels, penises (real and symbolic), and PaDuCo.

I should probably confess at the outset that, either because of my PaDuCo upbringing or just because, I’m a pretzel lover: a nodophile ‘knot lover’ (Latin nodum ‘knot), hence by metaphorical extension, ‘pretzel lover’. (In this spirit, see my 8/19/17 posting “lucanicophilia, peniphilia, and all that”, about my being a lucanicophile ‘sausage lover’ and a peniphile ‘penis lover’.)

Pretzel history from the P.C people. Just let the delicious text — and my frequent snarky interventions — wash over you.

(#2) The fanfare

Our Story: We LOVE pretzels. In fact, we love them so much that we decided to cook up something new. We set out to reinvent the snack, untying the knot and thrilling the palate. With 46 flavors and counting, we tickle your tastebuds with the likes of Sea Salt Caramel, Horseradish Ranch, Sriracha, Smoked Gouda, Jalapeno Dill, Strawberry Margarita, and so much more.

We bake our pretzels in small micro-batches. This helps us merge details with deliciousness, adding spices and coating to all the nooks and crannies of every single bite.

Of course, we couldn’t do any of this without our fabulous pretzel chef (yep, that’s a thing!).

Meet Chef Kate: Chef Kate [who, alas, has no last name here; you begin to suspect that she’s an invented character, a fictitious persona, built on a real person] grew up in the heartland of Pennsylvania, our nation’s birthplace of pretzels. [but where?, we cry, where are your people from? I reel off: Allentown, Hellertown, Bethlehem, Wyomissing, West Lawn, Wyomissing Hills, Sinking Spring, Robesonia, Birdsboro, and for our friends, Easton, Hershey, Lebanon, Lancaster, Shillington, Wernersville, West Reading, Mount Penn, Kutztown, Hamburg, Womelsdorf; we are, or were, farm people, specific places are important to us.]  She is a third-generation culinary chef and accomplished snacker.

Since she was a young child, Kate has viewed pretzels as her favorite food (unsuccessfully trying to convince her parents that they were a vegetable). She went to school to earn her culinary degree [where? why do we keep getting the outline of a story, without any concrete details?] and then set out to make her favorite food even better.

She’s salty about mediocrity and aims to make every pretzel the best of the best. We’re biased, but so far, so good!

The History of Pretzels: Pretzels are the oldest snack food known …. and there’s a reason for their staying power: They’re awesome!

But their exact history is a little unverifiable. One tale claims they were invented by German bakers held hostage and forced to create snacks for local dignitaries. Another rumor claims they came from an Italian monk back in 610 AD, the dough literally rising to the occasion somewhere between the South of France and Northern Italy. [Why does no one cite the dough fairies and pretzel elves? Or the fabulous St. Bretzula of Bavaria, her arms crossed in prayer as she was baked to death? I mean, there’s always at least one patron saint. But wait! In the 1970s, the Pretzels for God movement recruited a Native American Catholic figure, Kateri Tekakwitha (who died in 1680 and was, eventually, canonized as the first Native American saint in 2012), to serve as their pretzel patron (despite her total lack of any association with pretzels).] Some even say that pretzel bakers saved the city of Vienna from the invading Ottoman Empire. [Me, I’m inclined to credit King John III Sobieski, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, who actually led the troops in 1683.] And there you have it: This snack is small but mighty!

How pretzels got to America is just as mysterious. [Is there no end to these fancies and fantasies?] Some believe that they first came over with the Pilgrims, hitching a ride on the Mayflower and acting as barter with the Native Americans in the New World. Others believe German immigrants came to the colonies with their suitcases obligatory full of dough.

What is better known is where pretzels went from there…..

In 1861, Julius Sturgis, a baker in Pennsylvania, opened the very first commercial pretzel company. He’s also the man credited with turning soft pretzels into hard pretzels, paving the way for the treat we know today. [Hold that thought, because this is actual fact, and it leads to what became the local-area pretzel bakery when I was growing up. Have I mentioned how wonderful freshly baked pretzels — soft or hard — smell?]

Where the Past Meets the Future: By blending the traditions of the past with the innovation of the future, we’re taking pretzels to the next level. Through inspiration, imagination, and dedication, we’re baking batches like no other. Forget about the lap of luxury; we’re offering the snack of luxury.

Pretzels.com is a company founded on family and the second brand we’ve created (our sister brand – Licorice.com – was our first). We strive to concoct the best delicacies and ship them to you in three days or less. We love what we do and hope that you’ll love it too. …

Where are the Pretzels made? Our pretzels are baked fresh in “Pretzel Country” Pennsylvania [again, where in Pretzelvania? we know about Sturgis and Snyder’s, why not tell us about P.C?], home to the very first commercial pretzel company [but they’re mailed from Delray Beach FL, about 1200 mi by car from Reading PA].

[Why so coy about the location? The (hard) pretzel heartand is in southeastern Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is a big state, with pretzels made from one end to the other, from the famous soft pretzels of Philadelphia to pretzel bakeries in Altoona and the Pittsburgh area, but Pretzelvania is in Lancaster and Berks County (Berks, where my father and I both grew up; and Lancaster, where my mother’s family is from)]

P.C pretzels vs. more conventional hard pretzels. Conventional hard pretzels come in three standard shapes: the looping knot-like pretzel shape, the (thin) stick, and the (thicker) rod (though pretzels can be made in various other shapes — ball, disk, ring). P.C pretzels are all sticks and differ from conventional hard pretzels on three dimensions: size, texture, and flavoring.

On size: P.C pretzel sticks are petite, only 1 1/2 in long. You can appreciate their shortness by seeing them in context with familiar objects, as in this P.C photo of the company’s green chile bbq pretzels:

(#3) Shorter than a green chile, shorter even than a micropenis (not illustrated here)

(a micropenis: in an adult man, an erect penis of 3 2/3 in or less — so, more than 3 standard deviations below the mean of roughly 5 1/2 in)

On texture: conventional hard pretzels are brittle, hard-surfaced, and crispy; P.C pretzels, on the other hand, are more on the crunchy-chewy side.

On flavoring: conventional hard pretzels are unflavored (though  occasionally you can find cheese-flavored pretzels); P.C pretzels, however, are all flavored, some savory, some sweet. Those flavorings seem to be generally detectable but subtle (the green chile bbq is decidedly hot, though).

Sturgis pretzels. From the website of Tom Sturgis Pretzels (“America’s Frst Pretzel Baking Family”), “Our History”:

In 2004 we installed an additional pretzel baking line, which incorporates many of the processes our family has learned in the years since 1861 when Julius Sturgis (the first of five generations of pretzel bakers) began the commercial pretzel baking industry in the United States. We are continually testing and perfecting our recipes on the new equipment to be sure that the end result is equal to or surpasses our high standard of quality we consistently achieve with our famous stone hearth ovens. In the Reading, Pennsylvania area (known as the pretzel capital of the world), we have baked pretzels in seven different bakery locations.

… Marriott “Tom” Sturgis (third generation pretzel baker) was born in Lititz, PA.  He was responsible for bringing the Sturgis pretzel baking family to Reading in the 1920’s.

(#4) The Reading location; my father and I grew up just west of the city (on the way to Robesonia)

… Now Tom Sturgis Pretzels has returned to its roots in Lititz, Pennsylvania [in Lancaster County, southwest of Reading] at the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery. Under new management, this historic bakery will offer visitors a glimpse of what it was like for Julius Sturgis to bake pretzels in the “old days”. With interactive demonstrations, historical and reproduction equipment and photographs …

Snyder’s of Hanover. Source of those pretzel rods:

(#4) Just over 7in long, and thick

Snyder’s of Hanover is an American bakery and pretzel brand distribution company based in Hanover, Pennsylvania, specializing in German traditional pretzels. … Snyder’s of Hanover traces its roots to a bakery formed in Hanover, Pennsylvania, by Harry Warehime in 1909. (Wikipedia link)

Hanover is a borough in York County, Pennsylvania, 19 miles (31 km) southwest of York and 54 miles (87 km) north-northwest of Baltimore, Maryland and is 5 miles (8.0 km) north of the Mason-Dixon line. … The site of the final encounter between the Union and Confederate States armies before they fought against each other in the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War, this borough has since become known as the “Snack Food Capital of the World” due to the establishment of multiple food manufacturing businesses there during the 20th century. (Wikipedia link)

Now we’ve been all around PaDuCo, which has an identity of its own, but with different parts pulled culturally towards New York City, Philadelphia, or Baltimore.

PaDuCo. From my 8/30/17 posting “Pennsylvania Dutch country”

[People] have somewhat different ideas of where the borders of PaDuCo [called the Deitscherei in Deitsch (the Pennsylvania German / Dutch language)] are, but the core seems to consist of (parts of) six counties:

Lehigh (with the city of Allentown), Berks (with the city of Reading), Lebanon, eastern Dauphin (with the town of Hershey), Lancaster, York

As usual, region names are subject to different criteria, having to do with history, cultural practices, geography, and economic life. The core areas are historically regions of early settlement from German-speaking areas of Europe, especially the Palatinate of the Rhine, many of the settlers being religious outsiders in their homelands, almost all of them farm people, who came to share various cultural practices, including their language, but also food, dress, and crafts. The original settlements were in the rolling hills of southeastern Pennsylvania, on land suitable for farming.

The Wikipedia map highlighting the core counties (in bright red), plus adjacent counties often treated as part of the region (in darker red):


And the key to the names of those counties:


A good place to get a pretzel.

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