July 18, 2016 by Stephen Bentley
Bagels Bacolod, Hartford, London
Following my recent post about rainbow bagels ‘g’ wrote in with a comment. That comment was in response to the comment left by Danielle of The Thought Card blog. ‘g’ is a regular contributor to this blog both with comments and short stories. I thought it best to turn this last comment by ‘g’ into a post as it is worthy!
In reply to Danielle Des.
Hartford, Connecticut is where I first experienced bagels. I am not talking about New York Style bagels you buy in the supermarket. Or those ridiculous excuses for using the name bagel as in bagel chips. I was selling shoes in Hartford. My boss invited me to lunch at a deli known for its pastrami. While we waited for our waitress I noticed the ‘donuts’. I asked my boss what kind donuts they were. He knew he had a novice and said they were Jewish donuts. I believed him.
It was also the first time I encountered hot pastrami on rye with the most delicious mustard. Piled high with thick cuts of pastrami with the right amount of fat. The bread was thick and each ingredient on its own was excellent. Combined and allowed to set for a moment next to the large Kosher dill – it was gourmet heaven.
On my way home that night I bought a dozen of the Jewish donuts. The man behind the counter asked me what kind I wanted. I asked for glazed and any cream filled ones. That got a laugh from him and a man next to me.
He told me he only had salt, garlic, plain and everything left. I knew I’d committed some sort of faux pas. I told him to mix it up. Then he asked me if I needed cream cheese. He pointed to clear plastic tubs of different types. Remembering what a wiser friend said about not knowing what to order in an unfamiliar restaurant – ‘defer to the waiter’. I said, “Let me have what goes best.” That began my life with bagels and cream cheeses. Each city I go to I look for bagels. Most are good but too many are disappointing.
It was in London outside Victoria Station that I came across the next shop deserving to be called a bagel shop. I found it by smell. The bagels were the freshest and always warm no matter when I went into the shop. A word about cream cheese – never buy the whipped variety. Cream cheese is meant to be thick and slathered onto the bagel. In a way, bagels were invented so you had a place to put cream cheese.
The bagels outside Victoria Station in London were probably the famous Rinkoffs bagels, an East London bakery established in 1911. Brick Lane Beigel is another well known bagel shop in East London.
Why East London? The area has always been home to new waves of immigrants including over the years, Jews, Huguenots and more lately Bangladeshis and Somalis. It is an area rich in culture and history and some infamy – think Krays! I say infamy, but the Krays and their legend are treated with affection and revered in those parts.
I like the old Jewish saying about the ‘Jewish donut’ – the Jewish joke goes that a bagel is a donut with rigor mortis!
So, ‘g’ you are not wrong calling it a Jewish donut 🙂
Especially to make ‘g’s eyes water and belly rumble, here is a recipe for hot salt beef bagels:Follow Me On Social Media