The bagel, originally called the beigel, dates back to 1610 when the first written record of it appeared in Poland. The bread dough, usually wheat, is boiled first and then baked giving it it’s tough exterior and soft center. It was made in the Jewish communities, particularly Krakow, but rapidly spread throughout Eastern Europe becoming a staple in the diets of Poles, Germans, Russians, and anywhere the merchants carried it.
Polish-Jews moving to America around the turn of the century (1900’s) brought their traditions with them, instantly beginning to serve up bagels in the New York City area. The idea caught on but was tightly controlled by the International Beigel Baker’s Union, Local 338 for decades. You could call it a Bagel Mafia of sorts! If the bagels were not made by one of their bakers, it was not allowed to be sold.
Because of the Union, most bagels were homemade until the 1960’s when Daniel Thompson invented a bagel making machine. Later that same decade Henry and Murray Lender along with Florence Sender, figured a way to freeze the bagel and automate the production and distribution of bagels, shipping them all over the United States, and later the world. Murray, Henry’s son, also invented the pre-sliced bagel saving us all our fingers and time!
Originally the bagels were served plain but as time went on the bakers began to add such things as cream cheese and lox. Lox is smoked salmon, served salty to add to the overall taste, and make a meal out of the traditional bagel.
Today bagels come in many flavors: rye, wheat, sesame, coconut, sourdough… you name it and they probably make a bagel out of it. It is also topped with nearly everything under the sun. If you think about it, a bagel is just like two slices of bread that you can put anything on or between.
Leave it to Americans to make something their own, we have turned the bagel into a breakfast feast of its own.
National Bagelfest Day was started by Lenders Bagels when they held the first festival in 1986 in Mattoon, Illinois where the world’s largest bagel factory is located. Murray Lender was the host.
How to celebrate – Have a bagel! If you like them enough, buy a bagel making machine.