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Answer to Our Prayers: Pretzels

Because the American pretzel industry has its roots in the Pennsylvania Dutch, Philadelphia is the city most known for soft pretzel vendors. However, they are also extremely popular in New York City and cities all over the country.

Soft pretzels are baked bread snacks in a unique twisted shape, usually topped with either salt or sugar and served with mustard. However, not many people know its holy history.

Although the exact time and place is disputed, one of the most likely stories of the pretzel's origin dates back to a 7th century German monk. Supposedly, the monk concocted the pretzel's unique shape to make it look like arms crossed in prayer. The monks then gave a pretzel out as a "little bribe" (from the Latin word, pretiola) for school children who learned their scripture [source: Patrick]. Other accounts say the monk was in Italy; however, the name that stuck came from the German, "bretzel" [source: Smith].

And pretzel street vendors are nothing new either: One historian cites a baker in the 15th century who wheeled around an oven selling pretzels [source: Snodgrass].