Is there anything more American than College football? Rooting on your alma mater with food, friends, and of course a few beers. Of course not! This made me consider what else, in this “melting pot” of a culture, is quintessentially American. The obvious answer: Stephen Crane!
Stephen Crane is, of course, best known as the author of The Red Badge of Courage. To this, I say: Bah! Sure, the novel is a classic. Sure, it epitomizes society’s romantic, and ultimately problematic, notions of the glory of war, bravery, and manhood. But is The Red Badge of Courage really Stephen Crane’s best work? I can indubitably answer: No.
Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (A Story of New York) is a short novel that Crane wrote and self published. It was given attention only after Crane attained fame with the publication of Red Badge. Maggie, however, was widely criticized (and even censored) because of its language and the infamous “Fat Man Scene.” In spite of, and perhaps thanks in part to, the harsh language and gritty realism of life in a turn of the century New York tenement, Maggie remains, for me, the prime example of American Naturalism.
Life as a poor Irish immigrant living in the Bowery was not pretty. And fittingly, Crane’s concise language and economical prose (this novel is perfection in a mere 58 pages) make no attempt to be flowery or romantic. Drawing on his background in journalism, Crane describes a world in which babies die without thought, gangs of dirty children war, parents openly abuse each other, and prostitution is often the only escape. Crane shows, while making no attempt at a moral lesson, that alcohol is at the center of this unkind reality. In the Bowery, beer was cheap, easily accessible (even to the smallest children), and an escape from a bleak life. While still an unfortunate reality for some, this novel serves as a testament to the growth and progress of our nation.
I’ve, therefore, decided to pay homage to what is without a doubt Jimmy and Pete’s favorite beverage: beer. While for them, beer is equated to abuse, self-destruction, and degradation, it serves a much different purpose for most of us. After all, our favorite American pastimes just wouldn’t be the same without it.
So, turn on the football game, gather your buddies, and indulge in these beer-flavored soft pretzels.
Beer Flavored Soft Pretzels
¼ cup 80 degree water
1 package active dry yeast
1 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP kosher salt, divided
1 cup beer (Guinness, preferably)
3 ½- 4 Cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup grated parmesan Cheese
2 TBSP melted butter
Add warm water and yeast to a large mixing bowl.
Add sugar, oil, ¾ tsp salt, and beer. Continue to add flour a little at a time until a soft dough forms and pulls off the side of the bowl.
Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for 6-7 minutes or until its smooth and elastic.
Put dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour.
Punch down dough and divide into 10-14 pieces (depending on the size you’d like your pretzel).
On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a rope and form into pretzel shape. If you prefer softer pretzels, make your rope thicker; thinner ropes will yield a crunchier pretzel.
Add water and baking soda to a pot or pan. For extra beer flavor, add beer to this mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
Drop pretzels, one at a time, into the simmering water. Allow to soak for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then remove and place on a lightly greased baking pan.
Cover pretzels and let them rise again for about 15 minutes.
Brush pretzels with beaten egg, sprinkle with salt and parmesan cheese.
Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven until lightly golden (about 10 minutes).
Brush with melted butter and serve with mustard, cheese sauce, or honey mustard dip, and of course, a cold beer.