Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bagel blasphemy

What's truly a bagel, and what isn't?

At what point does a bagel become a tasty roll? This cinnamon crunch thing on my napkin is pretty close. It doesn't have the texture or the consistancy of a bagel. You also wouldn't put plain old butter or cream cheese on it. Once you start getting into the flavored spreads, you're out of the realm of bagels as far as I'm concerned.[]

Weird flavors are forbidden. And that's where the cinnamon crunch thing falls. Bagels are plain or poppy or sesame or garlic or egg or salt or everything or pumpernickel. I guess whole wheat is acceptable. Some will include cinnamon raisin but not me. Once the bagel starts tatsing sweet, it's a roll. Or a muffin. Cinnamon crunch, asiago cheese, french toast and the like are not bagels. They're rolls.

I stopped by a local bagelry and was appalled by the flavors listed on the menu. Blueberry? Unthinkable, but available. I bought some plain, etc. but when I got them home I found that their insides were beige instead of white. They were passable, just, with cream cheese and lox. They didn't have that bite which makes a real bagel so heavenly.

I always had a theory that New York City was the center of bageldom, and that the further you got from New York, the less bagel-like the product. Long Island and New Jersey bagels are acceptable. North Dakota? No way! That was my theory, but I'm going to revise it. I now believe that good bagel production relies on having a substantial Jewish population in the area. This keeps the bagel bakers honest. If the public schools are closed on Yom Kippur in your area, you have the makings of a good bagel. For instance, when I lived in Southwest Florida many years ago, the bagels were awful. People tell me they are pretty decent now.

Bagels used to be made by bagel-bakers, who rolled the dough, boiled it, and then baked it. It was a very special skill. I haven't done an actual study on this, but I think bagel shops are now owned mainly by Koreans. Not that they're not good, they are. But I think some places cheat and do not boil the bagels first. Bagels made in this fashion taste like Wonder Bread. Ugh!

Mr Charm and I once tried to make our own bagels. We followed the recipe exactly, but these were not bagels, they were more like big fat pretzels.

I'm awfully hungry all of a sudden.

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