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May 2013

The History of Bagels

Bagels, a staple for many households and a must-have for any New Jersey catered breakfast event. But what do you really know about bagels? We thought you might find it fairly entertaining to uncover the history of the bagel – well, at least momentarily fascinating.

Spelled ‘bagel’ and also ‘beigel’, this ring of boiled and baked yeasted wheat finds its origins in Krakow, Poland. Initially invented as competition to the ‘obwarzanek’, a bread designed for Lent, the bagel became the predominant bread in Polish and Slavic diets in the 16th and 17th centuries. The earliest mention of the word ‘bagel’ (spelled ‘baigiel’ at that time) dates back to 1610, at which time author, Leo Rosten, wrote of the bagel being given to women in childbirth as a gift.

The name ‘bagel’ originates from ‘beugal’, meaning bail, bow or bale – which makes sense, seeing how handmade bagels are not perfect in shape, but more of a stirrup shape. Of course, there are contrasting etymology views, but they all tend to agree on the ‘bow’ or ‘ring’ association to the word origin.

Since the early to middle 19th century bagels have been sold in and around London, England with great popularity and it was not until the latter part of the 20th century before bagels gained popularity in the United States. Polish-Jew immigrants to New York City introduced the bagel into U.S. society with a thriving bakery, Bagel Bakers Local 338. Of course, pioneers of the bagel industry, Harry and Murray Lender, and Florence Sender, improved the baking and distribution process in their Connecticut bakery, propelling bagels into the marketplace and homes across America.

Glimpsing back twenty years ago, bagels were only consumed at an average of 1 bagel every 2 weeks. Fast-forward to today, where bagels are one of the most popular breakfast foods available – if not the most popular – and no catered breakfast event is complete without it. Slice it any way you want, your new found bagel knowledge will just make it taste even better.

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