Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Ultimate Betrayal

Publix Supermarkets, in a naked act of betrayal, has stopped carrying Philly's Street Pretzels by America's Finest Soft Pretzels, Inc.

If ever there was a singular act that would cause me to stop shopping at Publix, this is it.

Unlike other frozen soft pretzels sold by Publix, Kroger, Winn-Dixie, Ingles, etc., the Philly's Street Pretzel is as close to an original Philly street pretzel as you will find in the South, where real bakeries are a rarity (along with decent delis and butcher shops).

Real Philly street pretzels are one of those sublime culinary delights that are found only in the Philadelphia area. Baked fresh daily, they are soft, doughy, and coated in Kosher salt. A cardiologist's nightmare. They are sold all over Philly by pushcart vendors, hot dog stands and cheese steak sandwich stands (another Philly culinary masterpiece). Baked and sold in continuous strips, you go up to the vendor, tell him how many you want and he'll tear off your pretzels from one of the strips hanging from a peg. Usually using his dirty hands that he has just wiped on his greasy apron. That's called 'local flavor'.


I remember them costing a nickel each back in the 1960s. You could eat like a king, all day long, for less than a buck. When me and my buddies (Jim Simons, Bill Mound, Richard Ford, Mike Rauchwerk and Glen McClellan) got bored in the summer we would grab the bus and head over to Philly for a day of running around Independence Hall and shopping at Goldberg's Army/Navy Surplus Store. I'd make sure I always had $3.00 in reserve; a buck-fifty for bus fare back, two quarters for an emergency phone call and a buck for a bag of soft pretzels and a Coke or two. (This was back in the days when Frank Rizzo and his brother ran Philly, and it was safe for a bunch of kids from the South Jersey 'burbs to run around downtown unsupervised.)

Since leaving New Jersey in the mid-1970s my life has been consumed by finding the Perfect Pretzel (no kidding - just ask Roberta). Real Philly soft pretzels have been the standard against which all others have been judged. The Germans are about the only ones who make a decent pretzel these days, and I have fond memories of stuffing my face at the Ams Bretzel stand in the market square in Heidelberg. All others have fallen short. That is, until I found the Philly's Street Pretzels brand in the Publix frozen food aisle a few years back. You have to bake them (6 minutes at 350 degrees) and coat them with salt (real kosher salt is included in the package), and they don't stay fresh for more than an hour or two, but oh boy, they are good!

Now, I could take this move by Publix as just an isolated incident driven by market forces and competition for freezer display space. However, about five years back Publix stopped carrying the world's finest sourdough hard pretzels - Wege. One day they just disappeared from the snack food shelf in all Publix stores in the Atlanta area, their display space eaten up by the Snyder's Snack Food Borg ("You will be assimilated!"). Ever eaten a Snyder's sourdough hard pretzel? It's like eating styrofoam covered in table salt. Blech.

The Publix manager gave no explanation for the disappearance of the Wege pretzels, just that it was a 'management decision'.  At the time I accepted his justification, but no longer.  I can only interpret the disappearance of the Wege hard pretzels and the Philly's Street Pretzels as an unambiguous and coordinated attack on me personally, and on all true pretzel lovers in general.

All signs point to an anti-pretzel cabal at work here, probably a formed as a joint working committee out of the Council On Foreign Relations and the Bilderberg Group.  It is now my life's work to expose and topple this evil conspiracy and return quality soft pretzels to their rightful status in the world!

No comments: