Where I work, people put snacks by the mailboxes, which is in a central location. I sit nearby. I can hear people walking by, slowing their pace, swooping their hands into crinkly bags with chips, cookies and candy.
It's amazing. Even at the height of swine flu anxiety, with hand sanitizer dispensers suddenly appearing everywhere like state highway patrol cars on New Year's Eve, we will still jam our hands into bags of free food.
Yesterday, I opened a fresh bag of pretzels--no germs--took a deep whiff of the crispy aromatic freshness. Added bonus: This was fresh! Those dots of white in the bag were pure salt, not the accumulation of skin flakes from the hands of two dozen co-workers.
The first bite of the first pretzel was perfect, like I was eating the first pretzel on earth, and like God in Genesis, declared it good. And on the seventh pretzel, I rested.
Some say pretzels originated as treats for kids during Lent, when many centuries ago, it was forbidden to make leavened bread. The three holes represented the Christian trinity and the twisted strip of baked dough represented the folded arms of a praying monk. If Christians use bread and wine in church celebration, then there's an argument (or a Budweiser ad campaign) to be made that pretzels and beer is sacramental, especially during these troubles times when we turn to faith for comfort.
Fresh pretzels remind me of my late father. For over twenty years he worked in a Dan-Dee factory that produced pretzels and potato chips. I'd visit him in the plant. He'd let me watch the conveyer belt carry along strips of dough that a machine would fold into the shape of a pretzel. It was mesmerizing as watching a crackling fireplace.
Often my father would come home, place freshly made pretzels and chips on the kitchen counter. I wanted to dive in, but my mother wouldn't permit us to "ruin our appetite" by snacking just before dinnertime. So while he washed the flour off his hands, the still-warm chips and pretzels steamed up the bag. Many times our chips and pretzels would go soggy.
(Note: Photo above is the same factory where my father worked, but the main in the photo is unidentified.)
Mark Morelli is a New York Times Bestseller reader.