Google has baked up a salty snack, the pretzel, to celebrate the beginning of Oktoberfest.
Google dedicated its Doodle to the versatile edible on Saturday to mark the first day of the Bavarian fall festival that celebrates that hoppy, fermented beverage we lovingly call beer. More than 6 million people will attend the annual festival in the Bavarian capital of Munich, consuming millions of liters of Oktoberfest beer and snacking on supersize pretzels carried from table to table in huge baskets by Brotfrauen (bread ladies).
The history of how it got to your table is a bit murky, but legend has it the pretzel came about in the 7th century when the Christian Church dictated stricter rules for fasting during Lent. Because pretzels — originally a soft, squishy bread — are made with a simple mixture of water, flour and salt, they could be consumed when Christians were forbidden to eat eggs, lard or dairy products.
Still, there are many twists to this tasty treat’s tale. Some say pretzels were originally called bracellae, the Latin term for “little arms,” as their shape is intended to symbolize arms folded in prayer. One legend holds that an Italian monk invented pretzels in 610 A.D., calling them pretiolas, or “little rewards” for children who learned their prayers. Still other stories, told in Germany, hold that the pretzel was invented by bakers being held hostage by local dignitaries.
Whatever its origin, the pretzel’s history took a hard turn in 1850 when Julius Sturgis of Lititz, Pennsylvania, baked them until they became hard, extending their shelf life and allowing for wider distribution. Today, more than $550 million worth of pretzels are sold in the US each year, usually shaped into the form of loops, braids, letters, mini pretzels and sticks.
But today, on the first day of Oktoberfest, there’s really only one thing you need to know how to say: “Noch eine Brezel, bitte!” (Another pretzel, please.)