How does a pretzel feel?

The subtleties of the dough strand pastry: ask the brezologist

On the Sunday evening when voting in Baden-Württemberg, there can only be one suitable pastry: thin-armed Swabian pretzel with a fat belly.

Already had an influence on world politics: Swabian pretzels Photo: Shotshop / imago

When I received the order to write a text about pretzels, my first reaction was an unprecedented panic attack. My face went pale, my ears were hot and red, and my arms began to flap uncontrollably. “A text about pretzels” - should I really venture into this highly dangerous minefield full of faux pas? So be it.

As a native Westphalian, I always thought that pretzel was just pretzel. How stupid I was. But then an amorous adventure took me deep into the southern realms of our country, far into a culture that was so foreign to mine and therefore so fascinating. I learned the language more or less well and suddenly no longer felt like an idiot in the midst of the celebrating natives of Baden-Württemberg who doesn't understand anything and can only look stupid. I also began to learn the difference between Swabians and Badeners ... oh, sorry, between Swabians and Badeners. Today I can say that the indigenous population has now accepted me as one of their own.

How different it was with the pretzels. I had no idea what diversity was about to break out over me, what symbolic meaning and religious explosive power the different versions of this mysterious biscuit would have.

I remember, as if it had only been yesterday, when I happily jumped to a backstub in Ländle to buy my first own pretzel with a light heart. But no sooner had I entered the fragrant shop than I caught my breath. Pretzels on pretzels in the display, thick, thin, light, dark, large, small, with sprinkles or without - I was about to retreat when the baker sat up in front of me and asked what I wanted.

It was a pretzel that pushed President George W. off the sofa at home in January 2002

Today I'm not sure if I really saw a mocking look around the corner of her mouth, but then I knew exactly that she was looking inside me. "Please," I whispered brokenly, "I want to buy a pretzel." The baker gave me a piercing look, pointed to the display with an almost blessing gesture and asked with a rasping: "Well, which one?" not free from hers, I stood there like the rabbit in front of the queue and just pointed somewhere with a trembling index finger and croaked softly: "That one."

What I then carried home was a wagon-wheel-sized, wobbly, almost white piece sprinkled with huge pieces of sugar and certainly not what I originally wanted. An Easter fasting pretzel, as I now know. I became aware of my own inadequacy and my ambition was awakened.

From then on I devoted myself to brezology in every free minute. I learned the difference between the evenly thick Bavarian pretzel and the thin-armed Swabian pretzel with the big belly. I now also know that you can only eat Bavarian pretzels with white sausage, wheat beer and before noon, otherwise you will be struck by lightning. The sequence of historical mentions of different types of pretzels, their meaning for the Freemasons and the various legends of their origin, I can now recite by heart, as well as the secret codes of the baker's guilds. I now also appreciate her influence on world politics. After all, it was a pretzel of unknown origin that dared to push US President George W. Bush off the sofa on January 12, 2002.

The next big task I will tackle in my research is to fully and definitively answer the question of who, when and where exactly invented the pretzel. Was it the court baker Frieder from Urach who, after a sacrilege, could only save his life by baking a cake through which the sun could be seen three times? Or was it his Alsatian colleague Dorebaek from Ingwiller who solved a similar problem with a three-piece bread? Or who is completely different? I will find out and make powerful enemies with it. But the truth was more important to Galileo than his fear of the authorities.