11 Delicious Facts About Bagels

iStock.com/alle12
iStock.com/alle12

Here’s everything you need to know about the Polish treat that took New York by storm. 

1. New York and Montreal Have a Delicious Rivalry.

When most Americans think of bagels, they envision the New York delicacy. New York bagels are big with small holes. They’re boiled briefly before they're baked—this step helps them emerge from the oven chewy beneath their firm exteriors. 

But New York isn’t the only North American bagel hotbed. Montreal-style bagels are delicious in their own right. Canada’s competing bagels are smaller and denser than their New York counterparts. They pack in extra eggs while swapping out salt for honey in both the boiling water and (usually) the dough itself, which leads to bagels that are more sweet than savory. Montreal bagels are baked in wood-fired ovens that lend the finished product a distinct crunch and char—but don’t even think about asking anyone in Montreal to toast your bagel. 

2. They’re the Perfect Push Present.

The earliest mention of bagels comes in the 1610 Community Regulations of Krakow, Poland, which indicated that women who had recently given birth should be presented with bagels as a suitable gift. 

3. If it’s not round, it’s not a bagel ... 

The word “bagel” is derived from the German word “bougel,” meaning “bracelet,” by way of the Yiddish “beygl”—so while innovative bakers can let their imaginations run wild when it comes to flavors, the shape isn’t negotiable. “Round with a hole” is an integral part of a bagel’s identity. 

4. ... but as long as it’s round, anything goes. 

Because there’s no legal “standard of identity” that dictates what a so-called bagel must contain in order to be called a “bagel,” bakers who lack the proper respect for the bagel-making tradition can call any old bit of ring-shaped bread a bagel. Watch out for those imposters.

5. Under no circumstances should bagels be confused with bialys.

Bagels and bialys are both yeasty, circular breads of Polish origin, but bialys omit the all-important boiling step necessary to produce a true bagel. Moreover, in place of a bagel’s hole, a bialy instead has a slight depression filled with a mixture of onions, garlic, or poppy seeds. It’s delicious, but it’s no bagel. 

6. Bagels’ quick preparation is a virtue. 

Bagels have been closely tied to the Jewish community since Polish and Russian immigrants brought the Eastern European staple to the New World. The bagel’s quick baking time made it a favorite in Jewish households on Saturday night after the Sabbath and its ban on cooking ended. With minimal baking time standing between the observant and hot, fresh bagels, choosing a post-Sabbath meal was easy. 

7. Their recipe was once a trade secret. 

To protect immigrant workers attempting to meet New York’s growing demand for bagels, an International Beigel Bakers' Union emerged in the early 1900s. Beigel Bakers' Local 338 was a particularly notable chapter—its 300 Manhattan bagel-makers banded together to keep their tradition to themselves. Only sons of current members could be offered spots in the union, and the group conducted its meetings almost entirely in Yiddish. The union’s monopoly on bagel baking ended only in the 1960s, with the invention of the automated bagel machine. 

8. Old-fashioned bagel baking was a four-man job. 

Due to the bagel’s unique multi-step cooking process, bagel bakeries usually employed men to produce the goods assembly line-style: Two men rolled and shaped the dough, a “kettleman” boiled the bagels, and an “oven man” ensured they were baked to perfection.

 

9. Bagels have made it to space.

In June 2008, Canadian-born astronaut Gregory Chamitoff blasted off on a voyage to the International Space Station with 18 sesame bagels as part of his personal cargo allowance. The bagels came from his cousin’s bakery in Montreal—which means there’s still a chance for someone to bring the first New York-style bagels into space. Get on it, astronauts! 

10. Americans warmed up to the frozen version.

While there’s almost no occasion on which fresh-baked isn’t preferable to store-bought, sometimes a bag of bagels from the supermarket’s freezer aisle is the only available option. For that particular convenience, thank Harry and Murray Lender and Florence Sender, who together pioneered mass production and freezer storage of the doughy foodstuff in the 1960s. Even more ingenious was their decision to pre-slice the bagels for easy preparation. Smart marketing introduced the previously “ethnic” food to a wider American consumer base, and bagel-eaters have never looked back.

11. You may not need to order a separate coffee. 

Coffee and bagels are a classic combo, but if one inventor gets his way, your morning bagel will also give you your jolt of caffeine. In 2007 Durham, N.C. molecular scientist and coffee shop owner Robert Bohannon debuted the Buzzed Bagel, a creation that can pack as much caffeine as a five-ounce cup of drip coffee.

To Avoid Grocery Shopping, Quarantined Americans Are Reviving Wartime-Era Victory Gardens

Zbynek Pospisil/iStock via Getty Images
Zbynek Pospisil/iStock via Getty Images

For many people practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the supermarket is the one place where it's practically impossible to avoid crowds. When they do brave the stores, shoppers may struggle to find what they're looking for, with panic buyers clearing shelves of everything from pasta to produce. Though the circumstances are different, citizens across the country are responding to the novel coronavirus outbreak by reviving a trend from the First and Second World Wars. As The New York Times reports, victory gardens are making a comeback.

Victory gardens started in 1917 as a way to supplement the commercial farming disrupted by World War I. As farmers became soldiers and farms became battlefields in Europe, the U.S. agricultural industry suddenly found itself responsible for feeding its own citizens as well as its allies abroad. Encouraging people to plant crops in any available space they could find—including rooftops, parks, backyards, empty lots, and fire escapes—was a way to lighten the burden.

The U.S. government formed the National War Garden Commission weeks before joining the war. Over the next couple of years, pamphlets were distributed to citizens showing them which seeds to plant and how to protect them from pests and diseases. One booklet read “The War Garden of 1918 must become the Victory Garden of 1919.”

Thanks to the effort, 3 million new gardens were cultivated in America in 1917 and 5.2 million appeared in 1918. The initiative resurfaced during World War II, and again, it was a huge success. At its peak, home and community gardens were producing nearly 40 percent of all fresh vegetables in the country.

For more than 70 years, victory gardens only existed as a footnote in history books, but now, they're seeing a resurgence. The U.S. isn't at war, and as of now there's no risk of the country running out of food, but the chaos and fear surrounding trips to the grocery stores are inspiring many people to turn to their own backyards. As many industries are struggling, seed companies are seeing a spike in business. Organizations dedicated to gardening are also seeing the trends. Soul Fire Farm in upstate New York normally builds about 10 community gardens outside homes, schools, and churches a year. But since the start of the novel coronavirus crisis, they've received 50 requests for community gardens.

A home garden is only useful in times of national hardship if it actually produces something. If you're interested in building a sustainable home garden and limiting your trips to the supermarket, here are some easy plants to start with and gardening mistakes to avoid.

[h/t The New York Times]

America’s 10 Most Hated Easter Candies

Peeps are all out of cluck when it comes to confectionery popularity contests.
Peeps are all out of cluck when it comes to confectionery popularity contests.
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Whether you celebrate Easter as a religious holiday or not, it’s an opportune time to welcome the sunny, flora-filled season of spring with a basket or two of your favorite candy. And when it comes to deciding which Easter-themed confections belong in that basket, people have pretty strong opinions.

This year, CandyStore.com surveyed more than 19,000 customers to find out which sugary treats are widely considered the worst. If you’re a traditionalist, this may come as a shock: Cadbury Creme Eggs, Peeps, and solid chocolate bunnies are the top three on the list, and generic jelly beans landed in the ninth spot. While Peeps have long been polarizing, it’s a little surprising that the other three classics have so few supporters. Based on some comments left by participants, it seems like people are just really particular about the distinctions between certain types of candy.

Generic jelly beans, for example, were deemed old and bland, but people adore gourmet jelly beans, which were the fifth most popular Easter candy. Similarly, people thought Cadbury Creme Eggs were messy and low-quality, while Cadbury Mini Eggs—which topped the list of best candies—were considered inexplicably delicious and even “addictive.” And many candy lovers prefer hollow chocolate bunnies to solid ones, which people explained were simply “too much.” One participant even likened solid bunnies to bricks.

candystore.com's worst easter candies
The pretty pastel shades of bunny corn don't seem to be fooling the large contingent of candy corn haters.
CandyStore.com

If there’s one undeniable takeaway from the list of worst candies, it’s that a large portion of the population isn’t keen on chewy marshmallow treats in general. The eighth spot went to Hot Tamales Peeps, and Brach’s Marshmallow Chicks & Rabbits—which one person christened “the zombie bunny catacomb statue candy”—sits at number six.

Take a look at the full list below, and read more enlightening (and entertaining) survey comments here.

  1. Cadbury Creme Eggs
  1. Peeps
  1. Solid chocolate bunnies
  1. Bunny Corn
  1. Marshmallow Chicks & Rabbits
  1. Chocolate crosses
  1. Twix Eggs
  1. Hot Tamales Peeps
  1. Generic jelly beans
  1. Fluffy Stuff Cotton Tails

[h/t CandyStore.com]

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