Years ago when our daughter was in southeastern Pennsylvania for her bar exam, my husband and I explored the area. We went to Lititz and visited a pretzel factory. I told them that I wanted to do an article about their facility so they gave us the full tour. We listened to the public portion and learned about the origin of pretzels and tried our hand at making some. The twisters work so fast and it looks so easy, but it was not as easy as it looked.
After that portion of the tour was finished, we went out back to see the whole operation. The day we visited they were making pretzels that looked like Amish buggies. They were really cute. The man who talked to us told us all about the procedure so I had plenty of information to do a feature. They try to use mostly local ingredients so that was certainly a plus.
I have a recipe to make pretzels that we have used several times. I recently found out that when people make the homemade versions they put them through a water/soda bath. I never did that, but I just might try it next time.
One year I made pretzels with the church youth group. I had the dough all mixed up so that it had a chance to rise. All the youth had to do was form their own. I let them make initials or whatever shape they liked. We baked them in the church oven and enjoyed them after our devotions and work time.
Another time my daughter and I made a batch to send to her brother at college. He was away from home for his birthday so we surprised him with pretzels. He was ever so happy to share them with his buddies.
Thanksgiving is a day that we usually are out and about. One year a storm hit on Wednesday so everyone stayed at home. We pooled our resources and came up with Thanksgiving dinner at my house. We capped the day off making pretzels. Pretzels were just enough for all of us for a light supper. Swansons went home to do chores then came back to eat pretzels.
Last Thanksgiving I was at my daughter's house. Once again we prepared pretzel dough. The children enjoyed twisting pretzels and making imaginative shapes of their own. By then I had found a good source of pretzel salt. The very coarse salt was not readily available. Now several supermarkets have it. I have also found it out in Amish country in one of the bulk stores.
The fair provided another opportunity to make pretzels, albeit a different kind. The night I worked in the track food booth it was my job to keep the pretzel container full. I got a head start by filling all of the hooks with pretzels. It did not take long before I was behind. These pretzels were the frozen kind that you salted and baked. I even had a couple people ask for unsalted pretzels. I told them that would take a few minutes, but they were willing to wait.
Within three hours I baked 300 pretzels, and every single one of them sold. The track serves them with a cheese sauce on the side. Even though I was tucked into a little corner of the booth cooking I was able to visit with several of my former students who came to the nearby window. Sometimes it is hard for me to recognize the students since I had them when they were quite young. Other times they look like they used to only a few years older. They are pleased when I can put a name to them.
A few words about this year's fair - the weather was wonderful. Although we had a little bit of rain it arrived at times that did not bother much. The good weather brought out the people. I am not sure how many people attended this year's fair, but I am sure it was right up there with the best.
Camping is very much part of the fair. I think the youngsters like the camping part as much as they like everything else. Many games are played in the campground as the youngsters entertain themselves.
I, too, learned a couple new games. A few years back I found a cribbage board. I remembered my grandparents having one, but I have no idea what happened to that one. When they were playing the game with friends I was too young to care much about what was going on. Well, this fair Barb took out her book from Hoyle and we gave it a shot. There are so many different ways to score that it is easy to miss some. I think I have the basics, but I will have to get someone to try it with me so that I can practice.
Another day a nearby camper and I exchanged a couple simple games. I taught her how to play Cootie and she taught me how to play Bunco. She provided the dice and the rules so that I could play and teach the game to the grandchildren.
It was a very busy week with two of the grandchildren showing cows. My youngest grandson did get to see his first live birth of a calf. I told him that I saw my first calf born at a fair, too.
When you take animals to the fair you do not spend much time in the campground. From early morning baths to late night supervision the days just seem to evaporate. Before you know it the fair is finished and it is time for the animals and the humans to all go home. A good time was had by all.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.