Archive: April, 2016

National Pretzel Day, Pretzel History, and Five Major Chain Pretzel Shops

Tomorrow, April 25th is National Pretzel Day.   The key to a quality pretzel is a luxurious brown crust with just the right amount of salt covering a chewy bready interior.   They are a great sugar free treat to indulge your carb and salt cravings.  And just in case you are curious how these unique treats came about we offer  a few theories that have been passed down over the ages.

  1. In 610 AD An  Italian monk invented a twisted strip of dough to reward his children for learning their prayers.  He  folded the dough to resemble arms crossing the chest and called them ‘pretiola’ (“little rewards” in Italian)  Of course, there is no known historical evidence to verify this claim.
  1. 12th Century – An illustration of a pretzel first appears in an medieval manuscript Hortus deliciarum compiled by Herrad of Landsberg at the Hohenburg Abbey in Alsace
  1. Another source indicate that the pretzel was invented in a monastery in southern France.
  1. Still another says it was invented in Germany, an invention of desperate bakers held hostage by local dignitaries. (not sure why in desperation they would twist up dough and bake it!)
  1. And still another claim from a 1905 German encyclopedia indicates that the origin of pretzels rose from a ban of heathen baking traditions including the sun cross, at the Synod (a church council) of Estinnes (a municipality in Belgium) in the  year 743. The  pretzel may have emerged as a substitute.

Where ever it came from the soft pretzel is now a pretty ubiquitous snack food found in food establishments everywhere but there are a few chains that specialize in the Pretzel.  To help you find a pretzel shop near you we offer links to maps of five major pretzel shop chains across the country.  Happy Pretzel Day everyone!

Auntie Anne’s Pretzels – The largest of the pretzel shop chains Auntie Anne’s has 992 locations in the United States, primarily in shopping malls across the country.  The chain was started by Anne Beiler  and her husband, Jonas, in 1988. It began in a farmers market in Downingtown Pennsylvania. Anne Beiler was born in 1949 and is from an Amish family in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania  She dropped out of school in the 9th grade.



PretzelMaker/Pretzel Time – PretzelMaker, a west coast chain, was founded by Jeffrey Tripp in 1991 and was initially named Pretzelvania.  The chain was sold and merged with Pretzel Time, an east coast chain.  The now defunct Hot Sams was also merged into the chain as well. There are 219 locations nationwide.



Wetzel Pretzel – Ricky Wetzel fulfilled his destiny when he started the Wetzel Pretzel shops in 1994.  As a kid, his playmates would often exclaim “Hey Wetzel, you pretzel!”.   The franchise was founded by Rick Wetzel and Bill Phelps in Rodondo Beach, Californis. There are now 118 locations nationwide.



Philly Pretzel Factory – The first Philly Pretzel Factory opened its doors in Mayfair, Philadelphia, PA in 1998. They now have 161 location, primarily around the Philadelphia metro area.  They give out free pretzels on Natonal Pretzel Day!



We’re Rolling Pretzel Company – In October 1996 Kevin Krabill, opened the first We’re Rolling Pretzel Company in Alliance, Ohio with help from his family and friends.  There are now 32 locations primarily in Walmarts in Ohio.


National Glazed Spiral Ham Day and the History of The Honey Baked Ham Company

Today, April 15th,  is National Glazed Spiral Ham Day.

Celebrate by purchasing an award winning glazed spiral ham from the “Honey Baked Ham Company” the originator of the spiraled ham and that has over 400 stores nationwide.  Here is a link to help you find a store near you.



Did you know the spiral ham was conceived and made popular nationwide  at  The Honey Baked Ham Company?  In 1957 , Harry J. Hoenselaar opened the first Honey Baked Ham Company  retail store in Michigan. Here is a history of the company in timeline form.

History  and Timeline of the “The Honey Baked Ham Company”


Harry John Hoenselaar  is born on Mar. 24 in Cheboygan, Michigan.


Harry is hired by William Hubernet, the owner of a meat company named  “The Honey Baked Ham Company.

One of Harry’s duties is to properly hand slice ham from the bone for customers.

Harry builds a prototype of a spiral  slicing machine using a tire jack, pie tins, a washing machine motor, and a knife and continues to refine it over the next eight years.


Harry demonstrates an early version of his invention at the 1939 New York World’s Fair in New York City.


Harry files for his first patent and then tried to sell his machines to other meat companies but no one  inteisrested.  (Patent US2470078 A,  Apparatus for slicing ham on the bone filed   Sept 7, 1944)


After William Hubernet dies, his widow, calls Harry and offers to sell the company to Harry for $500.  Harry takes out a mortgage out on his home and purchases “The Honey Baked Ham Company”

In October, Harry opens the first retail store location of the “The Honey Baked Ham Company”.


Jo Ann, one of Harry’s four daughters and  her husband  George Kurz open a second store in Parma, Ohio.



Harry John Hoenselaar  dies on Jul. 7, 1974 in Broward County Florida and is buried at Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton Township, Michigan



With  30 stores and with the expiration of the patent for the process to create the “spiraled ham”, the Kurtz’s  expand the company rapidly  in order to create a competitive advantage by establishing “The Honey Baked Ham Company” as a dominant brand.


The company has 170 stores nationwide


The Honey Baked Ham Company acquires Heavenly Ham,  the second largest specialty ham retailer, that has over 200 stores.


The company currently employs over 250 people here year-round and operates over 400 stores that include both company owned stores and franchise



Scrabble Clubs, The History of Scrabble on National Scrabble Day

Today, April 13th, is National Scrabble Day.   Wikipedia indicates that there are over 4,000 scrabble clubs but we could only uncover details about 50 or so across the United States.  Here is map to a scrabble club near you.


If you know of a Scrabble club you wish to add to your map, here is a link to where you can add the club.

In addition, to celebrate National Scrabble Day we have provided a brief history with milestones below.

A brief history and timeline of Scrabble


– Alfred Mosher Butts, an architect, creates a scrabble style game called Criss-Crosswords that was based on an earlier version he called Lexiko.

-Butts used the frequency of letters in the New York Times to determine letter values.

-Butts manufactured a few sets and tried to sell it to large game manufacturers but was unsuccessful


– James Brunot from Newton, CT, one of the few owners of the Criss-Crosswords game bought the rights from Butts and agreed to give Butts a royalty for every game sold

– Brunot made very slight changes to the game by changing a few letter values and simplifying the rules.

-Brunot changed the name to Scrabble which means to scratch frantically.


– Brunot manufactures 2,400 game sets in a converted school house but lost money on the endeavor.


– Legend has it that Jack Straus, the President of Macy’s, played Scrabble on vacation and placed a large order to be sold in Macy’s.

– Brunot, unable to meet demand, sold the rights to Selchow and Righter, a game manufacturer that previously rejected the game.


– Selchow and Righter sold nearly 4 million game sets.


– Selchow and Righter was sold to Coleco

– Colco goes bankrupt and sells assets, including Scrabble and Parcheesi to Hasbro.


– Scrabble was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.


– Words with Friends, a clear rip-off of Scrabble, is released.  For a myriad of legal reasons that is beyond the scope of this posting, Scrabble is not protected from Words with Friends copying the game.

Deep Dish Pizza Chains or Chicigo Style Pizza Chains – National Deep Dish Pizza Day

Today, April 5th, is National Deep Dish Pizza Day.  There are conflicting stories as to who created the first deep dish pizza (or as some say Chicago style pizza) that went on to become the staple of Chicago residents but it is believed to have been created in the early 40’s by either Uno’s founder Ike Sewell  or Rudy Malnati, a pizza cook who worked for Ike Sewell at the Uno pizza restaurant, who’s son went on to open Lou Malnati’s.  It’s thought to be more probable that Malnati created the pizza since Sewell had little culinary experience and Malnati had been cooking pizzas his entire life.  In any case the deep dish style of pizza became a success and there are now a handful of pizza chains that have expanded a bit outside of Chicago that specializes in the Chicago style pizza.  Of course some of the National chains now sell “Pan” style pizza but they don’t compare to the chains the specialize in deep dish pizzas.  Here are five chains (with links to maps to find their locations and contact info) that make authentic deep dish pizza and if they are not near you a few of them offer their pizzas by mail.  And just to let you know it is quite ok and almost a necessity to eat these pizzas using a fork!

Uno’s Pizzeria – started in 1943 in the River North neighborhood of Chicago. There are now 138 locations in several states across the nation.



Lou Malnati’s – started in 1971 in Lincolnwood Illinois by the son of Rudy Malnati, a pizza chef that worked at Uno’s and thought to be the creator of the deep dish pizza.  There are 36 location primarily in the Chicago area but with a few locations outside of the state of Illinois.   They sell their pizzas through mail order as well.




Nancy’s Pizza – started n 1974 in Harwood Heights, Illinois,  Nancy’s Pizza now has 32 locations all near Chicago except for one location in California and two in Atlanta.


Rosati’s – started in 1964 in Mt Prospect Illinois, Rosati’s now has 125 location through out Illinois, Wisconsin and in several other states.


Giordanos – founded in 1974 by brothers Efren and Joseph Boglio.  There are 36 locations also primarily in the Chicago are but with a few stray locations in Minnesota and Florida. The pizza recipe was supposedly based on a similar Italian recipe for scarciedda, a traditional calzone style dish served at Easter time.   Nancy’s Pizza also claimed that their pizza was based on a family recipe for scarciedda and the pies are very similar.  Giordanos offers mail order pizzas as well.



Gino’s East Pizza – started in 1966 by two taxi drivers, Sam Levine and Fred Bartoli, and a friend, George Loverde in downtown Chicago.  Gino’s has locations around Chicago and Texas.


National Chicken Cordon Bleu Day – History and Where to Order

Today, April 4th,  is National Chicken Cordon Bleu Day. We probably all have heard of the dish.  It seems to be one of those international chicken dishes that have been mentioned for decades….such as Chicken Kiev, Chicken ala King, or Chicken Paprikash.   But what is it really?  It is usually made from a flattened chicken breast that is layered with ham and Swiss cheese that is rolled up, coated with breadcrumbs and then sauteed or deep fried to create a crunchy exterior.   Sometimes a quick pan sauce made from wine or cream is also prepared to go over the top.

The name Chicken Cordon Bleu is translated from French to Blue Ribbon Chicken.  In 1578 Henri III of France created the highest order of knighthood and they wore blue ribbons to signify their membership.  Therefore Chicken Cordon Bleu is a chicken prepared in the highest order.  It appeared in the United States in the New York Times cookbook in 1967 and probably originated in Switzerland as a form of a  schnitzel in the 1940s.

The easiest way to celebrate National Cordon Bleu day is to get a Chicken Cordon Blue Sandwich from your local Arby’s.   It consists of a crisply chicken fillet, pit smoked ham, Swiss cheese, mayo and a star cut bun and contains 650 calories.  Here is a map and a link to help you find an Arby’s near you.




Bon Appetite!