food humorfood humor Eat, Drink and Really Be Merry
The Bagel: A Holey Experience
by Marjorie Dorfman

Page 2

fresh bagelsIn 1907 a union just for bagel makers, known as the International Bakers’ Union, was formed, joining 300 bakers in a common goal. Only sons of union members could be apprenticed to learn the secrets of bagel making in order to safeguard the art. Perhaps some learned how to make the dough and body of the bagel, while others concentrated on just the hole. This way, no one knew the entire secret. This was probably a good thing, as no one could be trusted in those days.)

In New Haven, Connecticut around 1927, Harry Lender, from Lublin, Poland, opened a bakery, which sold bagels basically to just Jewish customers. It took a while for the bagel to become an icon of urban, northeastern eating and a key ingredient of the multi-ethnic mix that has become known as "New York deli." The immigrant neighbors of Eastern European Jewish bakers were among the first to discover the bagel and begin its transformation from a Jewish specialty into an American food. In 1962, when Harry’s sons, Sam, Murray and Marvin Lender took over the business, they went on to specialize in the flash frozen bagel which allowed Americans nationwide to enjoy this previously ethnic and urban food. Their automated plant was situated in West Haven, where frozen bagels were made, packaged and distributed. Little by little, bagels became more and more popular and in the 1960s, production skyrocketed as machines capable of producing 200 to 400 bagels per hour were popularized.
How are bagels actually made and why are they so very popular? High gluten flour, salt, brown sugar and malt blend with good old New York water (to quote Tasty Bagels.) The ingredients are then mixed in a spiral mixer, which whips the flour into fluffy soft bagel dough in 12-15 minutes. After mixing the dough, it is then placed on a proofing table by an experienced Bagel Roller (not to be confused with a Holy Roller, although it is easy to see how that could happen). The bagels are then placed in a kettle of boiling water, which produces the golden shine and maintains the center hole of the bagel. After boiling, they are placed in a trough of cold running water, which allows them to cool down for proper handling. Their popularity involves several factors. First and foremost is the ease of eating that they represent. They offer a greater degree of portability than toast and a more satisfying chew than ordinary sandwich bread. Their heartiness makes them more filling than a croissant and less fattening if eaten without any topping (about 200 calories).

bagels and cream cheese However you make them and however you eat them, bagels are an almost religious experience. What, if not a bagel, confirms the existence of a just and loving God? What, if not the hole, makes one humble in the face of the wonders of the universe? Too much to contemplate at the moment? I understand completely for I am hungry too. How about a sourdough or an everything bagel to go? Or what about a ham and cheese or feta bagel to stay? Make a decision now and be a person. Time is of the essence and the old adage still applies:

"So many bagels, so little time."

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food humor"Our lives are not in the lap of the gods, but in the lap of our cooks."
Lin Yutang
The Importance of Living, 1937

"Talk of Joy: there may be things better than beef stew and baked potatoes and home-made bread
. . . there may be."

David Grayson
Adventures in Contentment, 1907

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