Tale of a Twist
Pretzels -- crispy, crunchy, crackly little morsels of salty goodness. Tortured, twisted, tangy
strips of golden glazed bread dough. Where did they originate? Why their strange shape?
The word, pretzel, comes from the Latin word, "pretiola," which means little rewards, little gifts,
or little prayers. Pretzels had their humble beginning in a monastery kitchen in southern Europe
some time between the fifth and seventh centuries, when a monk in charge of baking unleavened
Lenten bread wanted to find a way to use the leftover strips of dough. Surely they can be used
for something, he thought, crossing two thin strips of dough on the floured bread board before
him. He twisted and shaped the strips until they looked like arms crossed in prayer. The custom
of prayer at the time called for a person's arms to be crossed on his chest with his hands resting
on his shoulders. The monk's "praying arms" were an instant success, not only among the
monks, but among the children of the area, to whom they were given as rewards for learning
Pretzels retained their religious significance as their popularity spread throughout Europe. They
were a common alms offering during Lent, and the three holes were said to represent the Blessed
Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. They even found their way into the coffins of the dead, in
place of jewels and valuables laid to rest with their owners.
During the early 1500s, the city of Vienna, now in Austria, was under siege by the Ottoman
Turks. Thwarted in their efforts to penetrate the walled city, the Turks started tunneling beneath
its walls under cover of night. The bakers, who also worked at night, began hearing strange
noises in their cellars, and uncovered the Turkish plot. When the authorities had been alerted,
the two groups fought a fierce battle in the tunnels. A grateful emperor awarded the pretzel
bakers of Vienna an honorary coat of arms, thus elevating the lowly pretzel to the status of
In addition, a 17th century woodcut, copied from the stained glass window of a cathedral in
Bern, Switzerland, depicts a pretzel as the marriage knot in a wedding ceremony between two
people of royalty and their families. Wishing on a pretzel, like wishing on a chicken bone,
became a common marriage custom. Once the pretzel was broken and the lucky winner had
made a wish, the couple ate it.
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Early settlers brought their pretzel recipes to America, where they soon found favor with the
Indians. In 1652, a court case was brought against a pretzel baker and his wife in Beverwyck,
New York. The town's citizenry charged that the baker was using his finest flour to make sugar
buns, cookies, and pretzels for the Indians, while using inferior ingredients in their own baked
Until the mid-19th century, pretzels were soft, round, thick creations made from bread dough.
The Pennsylvania Dutch are credited with the invention -- quite by accident -- of the hard
pretzel. There are several legends about the origin of the hard pretzel. One legend states that a
baker's apprentice in central Pennsylvania was left to oversee an oven full of soft pretzels. The
apprentice is reported to have dozed off and, when he awakened, the fire in the oven had died
down. Not knowing whether the pretzels were thoroughly baked, the novice pretzel baker fired
up the oven again.
His master was enraged, yet fascinated by the shrunken, shriveled remains of his once plump
pretzels. He bit into one, and thereby discovered a new version of an old favorite.
A second legend credits a beggar, passing through the town of Lititz, Pennsylvania, with giving a
recipe for hard pretzels to a baker in return for a handout of food. The baker is said to have filed
the recipe away and forgotten it. It was rediscovered by his apprentice, Julius Sturgis, who is
said to have opened America's first commercial pretzel bakery in Lititz in 1861. The Sturgis
Pretzel House is still open for business. It costs $1 to visit. The ticket to get in is a pretzel.
Visitors to the plant (50,000 come through each year) learn how to twist a pretzel the old-
fashioned way. Says Clyde Tshudy, 51, owner of the pretzel company:
"We're still using the gas-fired, 215-year-old brick and clay ovens to bake soft
The Sturgis Pretzel House makes a variety of pretzels, salted and unsalted (called "baldys"),
pretzels shaped like Amish horse and buggies, tiny pretzels the size of a quarter, giant-size
pretzels, cheese pretzels, oat bran and whole wheat pretzels, left-handed pretzels and many
"People have been going nuts lately for oat bran pretzels. We can't make enough of them. Oat
bran pretzels are a health-kick fad," Tshudy said.
Tshudy's son, Michael, was the last president of National Pretzel Bakers, which merged with
Snack Food Association two years ago. All the records of the National Pretzel Bakers are
preserved in the Sturgis Pretzel House.
Reading, Pennsylvania, however, claims to be the pretzel capital of the world. One of its plants
is capable of packaging ten million pretzels a day. In 1960, pretzel sales in this country totaled
$92 million. And pretzel manufacturing is a business still on the rise. In 1982 (according to the
latest government figures, published in 1985), pretzel companies baked 186.2 million pounds of
those crazy, crunchy contortions. This translates into $156.5 million annually, leading one to
believe that, while man does not live by bread alone, pretzels are certainly a favorite mainstay.
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Reading may claim to be the pretzel capital, but Joe Nacchio, president of Federal Baking
Company of Philadelphia, claims to have baked the largest pretzel ever. It weighed 40 pounds
and measured five feet across. He also baked a four-foot, 20-pound pretzel for the 1962 movie,
"It's a Mad, mad, Mad, Mad World." It took two strong men to twist it into shape.
A rose by any other name is still a rose, and so too with pretzels. Sometimes called a "crazy
cruller," "crooked crumpet," or "buckle biscuit," a pretzel is still a pretzel. And from the
monastery to the movies, pretzels have come a long way.
The Tailor-Made Cigar
Which would you rather wear: a tailor-made suit sewn by hand exactly to your needs or a suit
mass-produced by machines and bought right off the rack?
Without too much exaggeration, that is the difference between a completely handmade cigar and
one cranked out by machinery. And in today's world, where the cost-efficient shortcut is
worshipped in so many places, you have to be extremely careful: Many cigars are called
"handmade" because one of the two major procedures involved is done by hand; while the other,
equally important, process is done by machine.
To find out more about handmade cigars, we checked with the Luis Martinez Cigar Company.
In 1989, they still are making their cigars the same way Don Luis Martinez made his back in the
late 1880s, when he first went into business in his native Havana.
Luis Martinez Dominican Handmades are a blend of four separate tobaccos that are aged for at
least three years to cure them of the raw leaf's harshness and bitter aftertaste. As with find wines,
aging the tobacco makes it rich, sweet and mild tasting.
When the aging process is complete, the tobacco is ready to be rolled.
The cigar maker takes the four separate filler tobaccos, weighs them in his hands and carefully
rolls them (not too tightly or the draw will be hampered and the smoker will not taste all four
tobaccos evenly; not too loosely or the cigar will burn too quickly and be too hot). Some
manufacturers that call their cigars handmade actually use machines for this process, which is
known as "bunching."
The carefully bunched filler is then wrapped in a specially chosen tobacco leaf by another
After each finished cigar is inspected, the cigars are placed in humidity-controlled rooms lined
with Spanish cedar. The cigars rest there for up to six weeks, until the moisture is even
throughout each cigar, enhancing the marriage of the tobaccos.
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The Luis Martinez Cigar Company offers a sampler of assorted shapes and sizes. A Dominican
Handmade Trial Sampler of 10 cigars with a choice of light natural (brown) or Maduro (dark)
tobacco leaf wrappers ($15.45 including delivery) is available by writing Luis Martinez Cigar
Company, Dept. HD, P. O. Box 76061, Tampa, FL 33675 or calling 1-800-82-CIGAR. Florida
residents should call 1-800-23- CIGAR.
The American jukebox is 100 years old. In 1877, while he was trying to invent the telegraph
machine, Thomas Edison wrapped a sheet of perforated tinfoil around a cylinder and shouted
into a horn. To his amazement, his words could be played back to him. Sound recording was
discovered. But because he envisioned his new invention as a dictating machine, Edison's
"speaking phonograph" languished for over a decade.
It was Louis Glass who added a coin slot and four listening tubes, and replaced the tinfoil with
wax cylinders. On November 23, 1889, Glass installed his new Nickel-In-The-Slot machine in
his Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco, and the jukebox made its debut. Soon, a new industry
was born, as "listening parlors" with as many as ten coin-operated machines sprang up around
The name, "jukebox," developed from the term "juke," a word used by early 20th century blacks
to describe dancing. Dan halls were "juke joints," and the new machines that provided music for
money came to be known as "jukeboxes."
"The jukebox companies as we know them today didn't start up until the late 1920s with the
invention of electrical amplification and of the 78 RPM record," says Eddie Adlum, publisher of
RePlay magazine. And it took another decade before the brightly colored machines began to
emerge, thereby ushering in the golden age of jukeboxes.
"In the 1930s and 1940s, the jukebox was the number one medium that exposed recording artists
to the public," says Adlum. "The big performers -- Frankie Laine, Johnny Ray, Glenn Miller --
would attend conventions and pose with them. It was a wonderful time."
It was also the time when the Wurlitzer Company began using the new colored plastics, curving
them into art deco designs, culminating in designer Paul Fuller's masterpiece, the 1015 model.
Fuller used revolving discs of Polaroid film to create the changing bands of colors, making them
flow inward to draw people to the machine. Fuller also insisted that the actual phonograph
mechanism be visible -- creating a "stage," so that people could watch their records being played.
"It's a magic machine," says John Durfee of the Orange Training Company of Massachusetts,
who restores and sells jukeboxes to collectors. Wurlitzer produced 56,000 of the 1015s from
1945 to 1946, flooding the country with their multicolored, bubble-lighted brilliance. Today, the
jukebox that sold for $700 when it was new, and as little as $65 in the 1960s, can fetch upward
of $12,000 restored.
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Alan Luchnick, whose New York City shop, Back Pages Antiques, specializes in Wurlitzers, can
no longer keep them in stock. "Everyone who wants a jukebox wants a 1015. I sold one years
ago to Yoko Ono as a Christmas present for John Lennon. I have also sold 1015s to Stephen
King, to Diana Ross, and to madonna." Luchnick ships many of his jukeboxes to Europe and
Japan, where collectors pay handsome prices for them.
World War II forced jukebox production to a halt and, by the time the companies reemerged, the
mighty Wurlitzer was overtaken by the J. P. Seeburg Company, whose model 100A Select-O-
Matic played 100 songs. Rowe-AMI and Rock-Ola, the two other major jukebox manufacturers
that vied with Wurlitzer in the 1940s, competed with Seeburg's new technology. Soon 120- and
200-selection machines appeared, equipped for the new 45s with stereophonic and quadrophonic
sound. Designs changed as well. Paul Fuller's mellow, domed Wurlitzers were replaced by
shiny chrome-and-glass boxes whose hard edges reflected a more abrasive time.
But malt shops and diners with jukeboxes were soon replaced by the unsociable atmosphere of
fast-food restaurants with Muzak or no music at all. And by the Seventies, jukeboxes were
bowing to a tiny computer creature named Pac-Man, whose voracious appetite ate up all the
quarters that had once fed the music machines. "For ten years, the music industry took a back
seat as video games rode a wave of popularity," says Joe Pankus of Seeburg. "But since 1982,
the swing has been back to music again."
There are now about 225,000 jukeboxes operating in bars, diners, hotels, and lounges throughout
the country, according to the Amusement & Music Operators Association (a Chicago-based trade
group) -- a big descent from the 700,000 in use during the halcyon days of the 1950s. "I think
it's going to get stronger," says Joel Friedman of Rowe-AMI International. "We're putting as
much into the box itself as we are into the new technology inside of it."
This new technology enables jukebox companies to program 100 CD albums with up to 1,500
titles. Seeburg's LaserMusic CD jukebox holds over 1,000 selections, while Rowe's LaserStar
displays 100 CD album covers in a large book format, a far cry from the days when one chose a
78 RPM record from a "menu" of just 12 printed cards.
The jukebox industry with its roots so deeply implanted in American culture, still draws on its
past to help nurture its future.
More Chocolate, My Sweet?
Q. Why do men give women chocolates on Valentine's Day?
No, it isn't "sweets for the sweet." It's more like slipping a little something in her drink to get
In "Consuming Passions: The Anthropology of Eating," Peter Farb and George Armelagos point
out that the Aztecs considered chocolate to be such a powerful aphrodisiac that its consumption
by women was outlawed (or, just a guess here, reserved for the wives and mistresses of high
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Aztec officials). When the Spaniards leveled Aztec civilization, they brought back gold for their
treasuries and chocolate for their women.
They had the right idea. It turns out chocolate has phenylalanines, the same substance released
in the body during sexual pleasure. Alas, the dosage in chocolate is tiny, too small to have any
real effect, except, of course, on the waistline.
Q. Why does love have to be so hard?
The irony of life is that the thing we crave the most also causes us the most pain. Love and pain
are inextricably wed. Why does love make us worry, fret, argue, despair? Here are the principal
1. Love is an addiction. According to Robert j. Sternberg, a psychologist at Yale
University, people in love display the characteristics of drug addicts: "At times, when you're not
getting your fix, you experience a feeling of withdrawal." He means this in the medical sense.
Like a junkie going cold turkey, you can become profoundly unhappy, irritable, depressed,
2. We fight in order to make up. A smooth, easy relationship may fail to produce the
emotional intensity we associate with "being in love." Lovers want love to sweep them off their
feet, to be a revolutionary force. But you can't have a revolution without the occasional pitched
3. Childhood fears. Our love partner has replaced our parents as the object of our
dependence. When there is any problem, long-forgotten emotions kick in, like the panic every
child feels when he or she is temporarily lost and feeling abandoned. Growing up doesn't end
But as the official arbiters of truth, we say that the most compelling reason that love goes hand-
in-hand with pain is:
This is an impermanent life. Everything dies eventually. In our moments of supreme happiness,
there is the inner dread that it cannot last forever. We are the only creatures on Earth with a
grasp of the future, and so we suffer the pain of our mortality. Says Stanley Charnofsky, a
psychologist at California State University at Northridge, "All joy is tainted by pain, because
there is the promise of the loss of it."
Q. Why is the line "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo" so famous?
In Shakespeare's time, men played both male and female roles on stage. So the greatest poet of
all time actually is a bit short in the department of heavy-panting romance. Most of the
impassioned love speeches are monologues with the lover out of sight. In all his works, the most
romantic and most famous moment -- and one of the few with two characters on stage -- is the
balcony scene in "Romeo and Juliet."
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Why is the "Romeo, Romeo" line so memorized? "I think the reason it's so famous is that it's the
opening line in the balcony scene," guesses Michael Kahn, artistic director of the Shakespeare
Theatre at the Folger in Washington, DC.
But let's go beyond that. We might note that the words are nice music:
"O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny they father and refuse thy
name, or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love and I'll no longer be a Capulet."
Romeo is. (FYI: He's in the bushes!) A Shakespearean "wherefore" is not an inquiry as to
location. It means "why." The context is clear: Juliet is upset that Romeo (whom she just met
in a moment of instant teenage infatuation) is a Montague, and thus a sworn enemy of the
Capulet family. When she says, "Why are you Romeo?" she is cursing her cruel fate and
articulating the central tension of the play.
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