Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The impossible hole in the roll

Via Bob's indefatigable Tuesday's linkastica, I got to read this short history of the Bagel, a humble Jewish roll with a hole.

Montreal is famous for making the best bagels, the genuine ones, parboiled and then baked. St-Viateur Bagels is the name to look for. They have a few branches scattered around the city so you don't have to actually trudge all the way to the Main location in order to buy their fresh baked bagels. There is one at Faubourg, another at Marche de l'ouest, and yet another closer to home, at Esposito's.

In taste they are incomparable to the bland, uniformly cut New York bagels, which are more like a dense roll in the shape of a bagel. Each Viateur bagel is an individual one, like a snowflake, or a dollar bill. They come with different toppings, like poppy seeds, sesame, mixed, coarse salt, and plain. As far as I know they do not exist in wholewheat or multi grain flour.

I once read a German joke about bagels:

A German guy whose sister is married to a New York Jew complained that he can never get a good bagel in all of Germany.

"And whose fault is that? asked the brother-in-law.

Well, I find it a funny joke. Maybe others wouldn't. It's like this joke, an attempt to deal with the desperation and absurdity of a world of people which has always reserved a very special and impossible place for Jews...


At 8:46 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where I grew up, in Jerusalem, a bagel is thin and shaped like a pretzel, is encrusted with salt, and has a tough crust with a chewy centre. It is eaten without cheese, lox or any other add-ons, as a snack to munch on while walking in the street. These bagels were once all baked at one bakery right on the edge of the Western part of the city, near the 1967 border, though today others make them too.

The bagels known to North Americans are a local phenomenon. Only in this generation have they become widespread elsewhere.

At 9:31 AM EST, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

I remember well the bagelmacher. As students we used to walk there Saturday nights, and get them. There was always a qeue. But I remember his bagels similar to those made by St. Viateur bakery. Not pretezel shaped, but round and thicker than a regular pretzel. It was very unusual to make a sandwich with it, but I did see it once or twice served like one, even then.


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