Happy Medieval Monday! For me -- and for other Eastern Rite Christians -- it is also Ash Monday. Like Ash Wednesday, which is in two days, it marks the beginning of Lent.
It is a time for reflection, penance, good deeds, and fasting. But the Church is a lot easier on believers than it once was. The "recommendations" for fasting have relaxed through the centuries.
During the early medieval period, Lent was a time of gloomy deprivation with one small meal a day for forty days. Meat, dairy, even fish were forbidden, as were sweets of any kind.
Pretzels, made with flour, water, and salt, were easy and acceptable additions to the Lenten diet. A few sources have suggested that the monk invented them during Lent. In many countries, they are still considered a traditional Lenten food.
Tradition has it that in the seventh century, a European monk shaped some leftover dough into pretiola, little rewards, to reward his young students for learning their prayers. Shaped like arms folded in prayer, they also represent the Holy Trinity. Pretzels are in a surprising variety of religious art, appearing even in paintings of The Last Supper.
Pretzels caught on pretty fast. Monasteries and bakeries across Europe began producing them. German immigrants likely introduced bretzels to America.
Nowadays, pretzels are enjoyed in all shapes, sizes, and flavors -- hard or soft, sweet or salty, large or small. From delicate, anise-flavored treats to butter and cheese-stuffed mini-meals to the little, crunchy ones found in the snack aisle of the supermarket, they are well-loved treats.
I've always enjoyed the big, soft ones slathered in mustard, but I think I will be expanding my pretzel experience. Yummm. And you can bet I'll have some on hand this Lent.
For more Medieval Monday, be sure to visit the lovely medieval ladies Mary Morgan and Barbara Bettis.
Wishing you a wonderful day and week ahead!
Sundar1, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
It's no secret that I prefer fat HEAs. Where better than in a beautiful romance?
From me to you with a smile.
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