May 13, 2014

Celebrating the Bagel

It is without a question the most successful Jewish food. No, it is not chopped liver or even the recently popular hummus. It is the bagel. Imagine that people around the world have adopted the bagel with its original name (bagel means round in Yiddish). Just when you thought that the bagel has reached its limit in terms of its flavors and size came word of a new Black Seed bagel that is supposedly a New York-Montreal hybrid.  Black Seed makes its dough with New York tap water and honey (a Montreal tradition), then cooks the bagels in a wood-burning oven so the crust gets crispier and the seeds blister. If you’ve ever had a bagel in New York and then tasted one anywhere out of New York, you already know that the New York water makes the bagel tastier. I learned that from none other than the late Murray Lender, the founder of Lender’s Bagels. He was the first one to flash- freeze the bagel, but yet he would make sure that the bagels used New York water.

According to Gil Marks (Encyclopedia of Jewish Food), the bagel was first mentioned in the records of the Krakow Jewish community. It became popular throughout Poland. It, of course, became a basic staple for Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side. A business associate of mine sent me a photo of a Bagel store in Beijing. I had already seen photos of a chain of stores in Osaka, Japan. As the kosher market continues to add products, it is appropriate to remember the bagel whose resiliency points to the fact that some foods will never be replaced. The next time you enjoy a chewy bagel, remember to salute the most successful Jewish food in history.