The third and the final article in the series ‘Snack-Time’, primarily focuses of two popular snacks from Europe. We all have an idea how passionate the Europeans are about their cuisine. Be it the most extravagant dinner party or the simplest dish prepared at home, they relish every grain of food. The Europeans are not just very particular about what is on their plate, they also make sure they have suitable complements for each dish, be it an age-old wine or just plain orange juice.
European snacks are popular throughout the world and are now sold by many leading outlets internationally. Be it sweet treats or savory dishes, Europeans are very particular about the technique of cooking as they believe it lends them authenticity. With a fair amount of cultures interacting and existing harmoniously on a relatively smaller piece of land, the intermingling of cultures is well reflected in the cuisine and food habits. European cuisine is alternatively also called Western cuisine and a characteristic feature of this food culture is that they emphasize greatly on accompaniments, seasonings and sauces and condiments. The cooking in Western countries is diverse from Asian cooking and also in the method of serving. For instance, the size of the meat served for a meal is considerably larger in Western cuisine than in the Asian meals. Following are a few famous appetizers from this continents of beauty and culture.
A pretzel is a baked bread in a shape of a unique knot. Though salt is the most common seasoning for pretzels, other flavouring agents include chocolate, sugar, seeds, glazes and much more. The traditional shape of a pretzel is a symmetrical loop that is distinctive. The ends of a traditional pretzel is made from a long strip of dough which has its’ ends intertwined and then twisted back into itself in a particular way that is called the pretzel loop. Though they now come in various shapes and sizes, the standard shape stays the same. The origin of pretzels has been recorded differently in various accounts. It has been written by Bryan Bunch and Alexander Hellemans in the book ‘The History of Science and Technology’, which dates back to 610 AD that an Italian Monk invented pretzels to reward the children who learned their prayers. The strips of dough were folded to resemble arms crossing the chest and were then baked. These were called ‘pretiola’ which means ‘little rewards’.
It is claimed by some accounts that pretzels have a Christian back-ground and the credit of a pretzels’ invention goes to the German monks. A 12th century illustration, Hortus deliciarum from Alsace depicts a pretzel at a banquet organized by Queen Esther and King Ahasuerus. Some other records also claim that the pretzel may be invested in southern France. When bakers were held hostage by local dignatories in Germany, they apparently came up with the concept of pretzels out of desperation. It is known as ‘Brezel’ in German and the name may have been derived from the Latin root ‘bracellus’ meaning ‘bracelet’ or ‘bracchiola’ which means ‘little arms’.
The pretzel holds a significance that is greater that satiating ones’ hunger. It has been used as an emblem for the bakers in south Germany since the 12th century. It also holds a religious significance as pretzels are made of only flour and water and thus it can be consumed during Lent when the Christians are asked not to eat eggs or dairy products.
One can now find a variety of pretzels, sweet and savory in a variety of flavors and sizes. Toppings like sesame seeds, poppy seeds, melted cheese, bacon, pumpkin or caraway seeds or even nuts like chopped almonds, pistachios and walnuts can be used to make a pretzel look inviting.
What the world knows now as a Pizza and consumes it as a full course meal was originally a small-sized portion of food. A traditional pizza is an oven baked flat bread with toppings of tomato sauce and cheese. Some additional complements are a variety of vegetables, meats and condiments that go well with the bread. The name ‘pizza’ first appeared in a Latin text from Gaeta which dates back to 997 AD. Gaeta is a town in southern Italy and the text stated that ”a tenant is to give the bishop of Gaeta duodecim pizze (“twelve pizzas”) every Christmas Day, and another twelve every Easter Sunday”.
The modern pizza is said to be invented in the city of Naples in Italy and its’ popularity has now reached out to the world. It is said that ancient Greeks used to coat their breads with a combination of oils, spices and cheese. On the other hand, Romans developed the concept of a ‘placenta cake’ topped with honey and cheese and flavoured it with bay leaves. But the modern Neapolitan pizza was invented only in the late 18th or early 19th century. Before that time,a flat bread was generally topped with a variety of flavourful seasonings for instance, garlic, salt, cheese and basil. It is still not clear as to when tomatoes were first added.
A famous story claims that the Pizza Margherita as we know it today was invented in 1889. When Queen Margherita was to visit the Royal Palace of Capodimonte, the Neapolitan pizza maker, Raffaele Esposito was commissioned to create a pizza in her honor. Out of the three different pizzas which he had prepared, the Queen preferred a pie that had the colors of the flag of Italy viz. red from the tomato, green from basil leaves, and white mozzarella cheese. Apparently, this pizza was then named after the Queen as we all know now know it to be, “Pizza Margherita”. Various other variations were then brought into the existing recipe and now there are innumerable varieties and versions of a pizza that are prepared in homes world wide and are even sold by leading food chains.
These are some of the brilliant food options that the world provides us with. There are many more and reading about food history gives us a new dimension about it. Next time you bite into your favourite pizza, the delectable Shawarma or sit with a big bowl of popcorn while watching a movie, you’ll definitely eat with a newer awareness.