Ask the average American to name a Jewish bread and there’s a 50% chance they’ll say bagels. But what is it that has made bagels a poster-child for Jewish baking? There is more than one answer to this question, the most popular attributing the creation of bagels to a Jewish baker living in 1683 Vienna. According to folklore, this unnamed man invented the bagel as a tribute to King John III Sobieski of Poland, who had saved the city from Turkish invaders with a daring cavalry charge. This story has led some to believe that bagels were originally U shaped like stirrups. However, other historians dispute this claim, arguing that the Yiddish word ‘beygal’ has been traced to 17th century Crackow, Poland. It is here that an official document of ‘Jewish Community Regulations’ – dated to 1610 – listed ‘beygals’ among the approved gifts for women in childbirth or midwives. These beygals were circular like our modern bagels, and the shape was thought to symbolize the eternal cycle of life, with no beginning and no end. Whatever their origin, what we do know for certain is that bagels were brought to North America by Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants in the late 1800’s where they quickly gained popularity in New York City. Yet the bagel appreciation that is so much a part of American culture today didn’t begin to take shape until the 1950’s, when Lender’s began selling them to supermarkets. Hard to believe America’s love affair with bagels & cream cheese is only fifty odd years old, but there it is!
Click here to learn how to make bagels in your own home – it’s surprisingly easy! (Also don’t forget about the Baking and Books raffle – only 8 days are left!)