The bagel, in its peripatetic history, has moved from the shtetls of Eastern Europe to the delis of the United States […] [H]owever, most people’s idea of a bagel seems to be of a vaguely squishy unsweetened doughnut, possibly with some sort of godawful flavoring mixed into it (with the “blueberry bagel” being perhaps the most offensive), generally purchased in lots of six in some supermarket… possibly even frozen. These are not those bagels.
These bagels are the genuine article. These are the bagels that have sustained generations of Eastern European Jewish peasants, the bagels that babies can teethe upon (folk wisdom has it that the hard, chewy crust encourages strong teeth), the bagels about which writer and humorist Alice Kahn has so aptly written that bagels are “Jewish courage.”
-Carolina Rodriguez, Real Honest Jewish Purist’s Bagels
For the past few months, I’ve been obsessed with thinking about how bread used to be made.
In “Oxford Encylopedia of Food and Drink in America”, Andrew F. Smith wrote: Commercially produced yeast first appeared in the United States in the 1860s [and by] the early twentieth century factory-produced live cake yeast was widely available. And it wasn’t until after WWII that dry yeast appeared on store shelves.
This means that it seems very likely that those people from the Eastern European Shtetls captured their own yeast. I can’t imagine that they had supermarkets stocked with packages of yeast in their villages….
I am neither Jewish, nor did I grow up eating bagels. But I am definitely a purist where bagels are concerned. I can’t stand the commercially produced soft buns with holes in them. I’m not even that crazy about the so-called Montreal-style bagels that are sold by the fancy coffee shop down the street. (continue reading )