Vivian Hafer, 77, of Douglassville and Betty Weisser, 84, Exeter Township roll out the dough to make pretzels at Berks Encore in Birdsboro as part of an activity Monday celebrating National Pretzel Day.
Mary Heffelfinger, 99, Birdsboro, politely declined to put her fingers in the gooey pretzel batter, but that didn't mean she wouldn't eat them after they were baked and served.
"Nooo, I never made them, but I eat them," said Heffelfinger at a National Pretzel Day celebration that attracted about 25 seniors on a rainy Monday morning at the senior citizens' center at Berks Encore in Birdsboro.
Besides making their own pretzels, seniors received six cases of pretzels for the event from Unique Pretzel Bakery, Muhlenberg Township. Some of the bags were to be distributed to Meals on Wheels clients. Seniors also planned to make a cream cheese dip.
"I've already done my share of cooking," said Heffelfinger, who will turn 100 on May 25.
"How do I like 'em (pretzels)?" she repeated. "With a good apple, that's how I'll eat pieces of pretzel."
Of course, good teeth and the ability to swallow are needed to do that, as Heffelfinger learned in a trivia questionnaire conducted by Carol Smith, center manager: "President George W. Bush once choked on a pretzel and momentarily lost consciousness."
That's darker pretzel lore.
Accentuating the positives of pretzels was the immediate task at hand.
Unlike Heffelfinger, Vivian Hafer, 77, Amity Township, and Betty Weisser, 84, Exeter Township, didn't hesitate mixing it up with pretzel batter.
"When you roll them, it just gets a little sticky, that's all," said Weisser, who grew up in Reading, once known as the proud pretzel capital of the nation.
Weisser recalled buying bags of broken pretzels for a nickel on Cotton Street during the Great Depression.
"I think they are really good for you unless you eat too much salt," she said.
"What do they call a pretzel without salt?" Smith asked.
All was quiet.
"You know, like an old man without hair," she said, giving seniors a hint.
Still no speedy answers.
"Baldies," she said loud enough to raise a round of laughter and maybe even a few hairs.
Smith went on to tell seniors that pretzels are a $550-million-a-year business and that 80 percent of all pretzels are made in Pennsylvania. The biggest pretzel ever made was 40 pounds and 5 feet across, she said.
"The average American eats between one-and-a-half to two pounds of pretzels per year, but around here we're supposed to eat 12 times that amount," Smith said.
That's quite a twist on pretzel consumption on National Pretzel Day.
It makes you wonder: How much did Berks County seniors eat when they recently observed Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Day?
By Bruce R. Posten
Originally Published: 4/27/2010