by Emily King

A bagel and cream cheese, some orange juice, coffee, and a newspaper: Sounds like a wholesome “All-American” sort of breakfast, right? The bagel has become such a popular breakfast food in this country, that it is almost surprising to think that they are not an American creation at all! Contrary to what you might think, the bagel was not created in conjunction with “Philadelphia Cream Cheese”—in fact, bagels pre-date cream cheese by over 200 years!

Bagels are ring formed breads that are typically boiled before baking. They have a crisp outer layer, preventing the dough from rising beyond a certain point. Like many food products, the origin of the bagel is a little bit foggy, but a whole lot of fun if the story is true!

Folklore suggests that the bagel was designed as a tribute to Jan Sobieski, a Polish General. In 1683, this Polish General saved Vienna from invasion by the Turks, and as legend has it, the adoring townspeople clutched his stirrups (“breugels” in German) as he rode through town. The King asked a baker to design a bread-product in the shape of a stirrup to honor the general for his bravery. Overtime, the stirrup-shaped bread morphed into the rounder shape we know today, and the “breugel” became the “bagel.”

Of course, there are other explanations for the bagel’s ring-like form. Some accounts say that Russian and Polish bakers created the bagel because it was easy to skewer on long poles and sell on the street as a competitor for bublik, while others believe that it is simply a descendant of the pretzel and got its name from the German word “beignen” which means “to bend.” Heck, there are apparently Egyptian hieroglyphs showing a bagel like bread being eaten by the ancients – or was that the eye of Ra? You know what they say, “…print the legend.”

No matter which Bagel-origin theory you believe, it is clear that they became an important tradition in Polish communities. Because of their ring-shape, the bagels were considered a sign of luck and good tidings and were commonly given as gifts to pregnant women. Mothers even used them as teething rings for their grumpy, uncomfortable babies.

Polish immigrants, many Jewish bakers from Krakow, left many things behind as they traveled to America in the early 1900’s to seek out new opportunities; but luckily, they brought their bagel-making tradition. Bakers in New York, Toronto, and Montreal introduced the public to bagels and the public simply couldn’t get enough of the chewy, round bread.

The bagel has endured because of its practicality. The process of making it creates a protective outer crust that allows it to last longer then baked breads and stay fresh.  It is perfect for spreads, and it is easily transportable. Not to mention, good bagels are quite tasty.

 They became widely popular in the United States after WWII when American’s became open to new culinary influences and mass production became possible.  Today, we can find bagels everywhere—from coffee shops to delis.

They are difficult to make at home, though and can be quite messy, we don’t event try. We get ours from Capistrano’s Wholesale bakery. So, toast them. “shmear” them with cream cheese, or build a sandwich (they make great cheeseburgers), and check out our sponsor’s for all their quality breads.

Click here to read more Breakin’ Bread Features.

Visit Capistrano’s Wholesale Bakery online by clicking here.

Click Here to read more Breakin’ Bread Features

Or, in Arizona, Capistrano’s artisan breads are available at Vincent’s Saturday Market on Camelback when it is open, at Holsum Outlets, and now at Luci’s Healthy Marketplace. Here are the locations.

  • Apache Junction – 10107 E. Apache Trail
  • Casa Grande – 823 N. Pinal
  • Chandler – 7275 W. Detroit
  • Peoria – 9210 W. Peoria
  • Tucson – 2801 S. 4th Avenue
  • Luci’s Healthy Marketplace -1590 East Bethany Home Road, Phoenix