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Bagels By Barbara Harrison

I love a good bagel! I can’t remember when I ate my first one but maybe it was as soon as I had sufficient tooth power to handle the task.

When I was a teen-ager, Saturday night dates often would end up with a stop at the local bagel baker. That was when they baked through the night because Sunday was a major bagel day in the life of many Bronxites, that is, Bronxites like in the Bronx, New York. The aroma as you entered was akin to an aphrodisiac, warm and yeasty. Especially on a cold, winter night, it was an extra treat to enter the warm, delicious smelling space, with mouth watering and tongue and teeth anticipating the chewy delight soon to come.

Bagels produced there were very different from the bagels one finds today in the supermarkets or chain stores; those bagels were hand shaped, some dipped in sesame seeds or poppy seeds, onions came later. “Everything” bagels were a big deal that also came along later. The dough was boiled before it was baked and the seeds added before baking. The bagels were placed on long, wooden planks and allowed to bake until they were crusty and brown. The bakers were stripped to the waist or wore only undershirts as it was hot steamy work. You could watch the entire process if you were tall enough to peek over the machinery. But it was easy to watch the last oven process as that was right in front of the store. We could buy them by the dozen and often started to eat them in the car on the way home.

Once we got home, the whole family would gather. A pot of coffee was quickly produced, butter and cream cheese passed around and hot bagels devoured. Everyone would be talking about how they had spent their Saturday night with mouths stuffed full. What a treat it was!

One of my quests since arriving in Chicago, just over 4 years ago, has been to find a bagel that approximates a New York bagel I can’t believe the plethora of things out there that are called bagels: blueberry, cinnamon raisin and the biggest abomination, chocolate. Yecchhh!! And those round things at Dunkin’ Donuts that are really made of Wonder Bread; there’s a name for them but its not BAGEL !!

Originally Posted (Jul 01, 2002)

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