Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Have a pretzel roll.  They are slightly salty, doughy, soft and chewy.   The next best thing to a Philly pretzel!  Plus they make a nice snack if you want to take a break from reading "The Baker's Daughter,"  the novel which is featured for this round of Cook the Books Club.

I just finished reading "The Baker's Daughter," which unfortunately was a somewhat boring novel. Unfortunate, because it deals with very interesting subjects.  But this stuff has been written about before, and with a lot more suspense and style. Nothing new brought to the table here.  The storytelling is mushy, not even as palatable as overcooked spaghetti.
Novel:  The Baker’s Daughter.  Author:  Sarah McCoy.  Premise: Two main characters, both female.  One is a pretend Nazi, the other is a pretend vegan.  Here’s a question: if you had to, which of the two women would you rather be?  You might answer “I would rather be the pretend vegan,” since upon consideration it becomes clear to you it is the more ethical choice of the two.  Hold on though.  I would recommend that you choose to be the pretend Nazi.  Because, friends, it’s the pretend Nazi character who leads the more interesting life.  For one thing she is a baker extraordinaire. For another, she learns  all about the evils of Nazism and she forsakes them.  Not only that.  She saves the life of a Jewish boy.  Not only that.  She and the Jewish boy get to bake pretzels together.  Lots of pretzels.  Not only that.  She marries an American.  Not only that.  She moves to El Paso, Texas.  Not only that.  She opens up a German bakery.  Her life is filled with adventure and experience.  As for the pretend vegan…. I just could not understand why she wanted to pretend to be a vegan.  But she was really good at it.  Pretending, I mean.  To be a vegan.  Everyone believed her.  Except for me.  I knew it all along.  That girl ate dairy.
So the dairy eating girl is named Reba, and she is a journalist.  While on the job she meets Elsie, the German bakery owner.  They become fast friends and that's when we learn how each one arrived to the point where their lives converged.  It turns out that Reba has a boyfriend, a quite virile one, who is a border control officer.  Oh yes, I wouldn’t mind meeting him, but fine, I know he’s taken.  The virile boyfriend’s job is to locate illegal aliens and send them back whence they came.  It bothers Reba that these people are hunted down and deported.  She understands their struggle to escape poverty.  Eventually, Reba's boyfriend begins to question the effectiveness of his job.  Good for you Sarah McCoy, oh author of The Baker’s Daughter, for spinning a plot that confronts this issue. But you should have tried a little harder.  To make the story telling more interesting.  
While we're on the subject of illegal immigrants, I'd like to comment that it just seems every time our economy slides down the slippery slope there comes an outcry from certain political factions to curb illegal immigration.  As though the presence or absence of illegal aliens is the driving force of our economy. They're actually necessary and good for our economy, but they are not its driving force.  The vociferous bellowing against this minority helps to detract attention from the real problem at hand. Nice political trick.  Solving nothing.  Which is inherent in that sort of politics.
Back to the novel: what McCoy has done is engage her protagonists on a quest to find emotional maturity by coming to the realization that they cannot always follow traditional wisdom.

Sarah McCoy's novel The Baker's Daughter, is the reading selection for this round of "Cook the Books Club."  Read the book and cook something which is inspired by the reading.  In my case, the choice was simple, easy, clear.  I made pretzel rolls, inspired by Elsie's pretzel making marathons. 
I live in the Philadelphia area. Pretzels are a ubiquitous snack here. What else was I going to make but something with the word pretzel in it?  I grew up eating soft pretzels.  At school they used to cost one nickel each, but in the “fancy” shops around town they would sell for one quarter each.  I gladly paid the quarter when school was closed.  One pretzel a day, and all was right with the world.  I liked my pretzel with a thin ribbon of mustard squeezed on top. The big trick was to eat the pretzel without dripping mustard on my clean outfit.  Come summertime, kids and adults alike would line up (and still line up) to buy fruit flavored water ice, and yes, the best accompaniment for water ice was and is a soft pretzel.  It’s a Philly thing. Pretzels were introduced to our neck of the woods in the late eighteenth century by German immigrants who began arriving here at that time. Since then, the soft pretzel became a Philadelphia tradition. Yes, thanks to a large population with German background, Philadelphia and its surrounding counties became the birthplace of the American pretzel industry.  In fact, even to this day, Pennsylvania produces the majority of our nation’s pretzels.  

To make pretzel rolls I used a recipe by Alton Brown from the Food Network.  It's a very good recipe, with a how-to video included.  I made the dough, then shaped it into rolls rather than pretzels. After all, pretzel rolls are quite a popular thing these days. And no, I will not make actual pretzels at home. Why mess with tradition?  I always buy my pretzels at the corner pretzel store.  I don't even mind that the price has gone up since I was a schoolgirl. Now they cost “two for a dollar,”  or seventy five cents for one, but... the mustard is still free.  

This has been my contribution to "Cook the Books Club."  Read the book, cook something delicious inspired by the book, then blog about it.  Submissions are due every two months, and a winner is chosen from among the participants.  If you like to read and cook, this is the internet club you should join!


  1. I enjoyed reading your commentary about the book. I also found the pretend vegan to be an annoying character and looked forward to getting back to Elsie's story in this novel. Your pretzel rolls look glorious.

  2. Reba just needed to look in her own backyard to find her happy place. Love the look of these rolls.

  3. Fabulous reading, but is there a recipe for your lovely pretzel rolls? We in Canada do not have soft pretzels of any kind here on the island, but we can follow, and do follow, your recipes. They look delicious, jealous...

  4. Elsie was my favorite in terms of characters too. ;-) Your rolls look wonderful--I love the salty, doughy, soft and chewy description--Yum!

  5. "One pretzel a day, and all was right with the world." I had to chuckle a bit. I totally understand: there are some foods that have the power to set everything right. Your pretzel rolls look lovely! I had no idea Philadelphia had such a close association with pretzels.