Joie de Vivre: Praising the Bretzel


Yes, you read that correctly. If you thought I was actually writing about “Braising the Pretzel”* and became enthused, then I sincerely apologize for causing false excitement.

*Nonetheless, an article on such a topic does not make much sense so I would question your logic if you did indeed become enthused. I would still maintain an overall apologetic tone though.

Let me clarify: When I speak of the bretzel, I am not speaking of a pretzel, even though the bretzel is another name for a pretzel. Rather, I am talking about bretzel bread, such as that pictured above. It is bread, used for sandwiches and such, that has the ingredients and consistency of a pretzel.

What makes me write about the bretzel? I had my first experience with a bretzel at Hannah’s Bretzel, a Chicago eatery that specializes in bretzel sandwiches. I had seen a bretzel sandwich on a menu once prior, at the Nasher Café, but the ingredients of the sandwich were not sufficiently appealing to order it. But, with a Parma ham and goat cheese bretzel baguette sandwich on the menu at Hannah’s, my culinary exposure to the bretzel began and man, was it delectable.

The bretzel reminds me of that airplane joke about the black box: If the black box is so indestructible, why don’t they make the entire plane out of the black box? Likewise, if people love the taste/texture of pretzels so much, why don’t they just make all breads like the pretzel?* Well, they do, at least for sandwiches.  And they are puffy, doughy, as salty as you desire, and delicious.

*Okay, it’s not completely analogous. But, it’s sufficiently analogous for the purposes of this post. And, to be clear, I am a fan of other fresh breads too. I just think the bretzel is not a well-known entity and deserves a singling out.

One may be concerned that this makes for an unhealthy sandwich, but I fail to see what is inherently unhealthy about the bretzel. Hannah’s uses whole-wheat grains and presumably so can any bretzel maker. This makes the bretzel a hell of a lot healthier than the plethora of processed breads that dominate delis and supermarkets. Moreover, the deliciousness of the bretzel could very well lead to an increased willingness to consume healthy vegetables on said bretzel (arugula had never tasted so good before.).

If given the opportunity, do yourself a favor and give the bretzel a chance.

4 responses to this post.

  1. Uhhhh….did I miss the bretzel place in our neighborhood? In New York?


  2. Posted by Alex H on September 24, 2009 at 3:15 AM

    Josh, have you ever experienced – or at least heard of – the pretzel croissant? Flaky croissant texture, pretzel taste. Divine. Only available, to my knowledge, at City Bakery, but there’s a bakery that goes to the Berkeley Farmers Market that does something similar.


  3. […] Food and statistical analysis are two NPI (or Josh) favorites. Michael Lander combines them, performing a statistical analysis of pizza ratings in NYC to find that coal oven’s is the most significant determinant of a highly-rated pie. […]


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