The Bagel Story

The Bagel Legend

It is said that, in 1683, a Jewish baker in Vienna, Austria was looking for a way to thank the king of Poland for having protected his compatriots from the invading Turks. He created a small bread in the form of a stirrup ('beugel', in Austrian German), which pleasantly reminded the king, who loved riding, of his favorite hobby.

Adopted by the Polish, bagels became the official gifts offered to new mothers upon the birth of a child. They are even mentioned in the civil registers of communities of that era. Bagels were also used as nutritious teething rings that babies could easily chew and manipulate.

When bagels arrived in Russia, they were given the name "bubliki" They were sold at market stands and on city streets. Because of their circular form, they were said to bring happiness, and were believed to have magical powers. There even seems to have been songs about bagels!

Source : The Bagels' Bagel Book by Marilyn and Tom Bagel

The Montreal Bagel's Mysterious Origins

Everyone knows why traditional Montreal bagels taste so great. Less well known is where that remarkable taste came from. The story of who brought the special recipe to Montreal is where history passes into the shadowy realm of family myth.

According to one story, Hyman Seligman brought it here from his hometown, Dvinsk, in Czarist Russia (now Daugavpils, Latvia), and started making them in his Montreal Bagel Bakery. In another tale, the recipe was brought from Kiev, where Isidore Schlafman’s father had run a bakery. But without further research, the truth of the Montreal bagel’s origins will remain obscure, lost in the mists of the past.

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A Jewish Tradition Hits the Mainstream

St-Viateur Bagel is Montreal’s longest-running bagel bakery, with several business outlets and customers across North America. But for most of bagel history, the baking and eating of bagels were almost totally Jewish pastimes. In the world of Jewish bread, bagels checked in somewhat low on the ladder (on special occasions, people bought challah, not bagels).

That began to change in the 1970s, as people from all kinds of backgrounds discovered a taste for the humble bagel. By the 1990s, bagels had become thoroughly mainstream, as trade publications like Bakers’ Journal described the bagel as the fastest-growing market in baked goods. Bagel shops began opening up all over North America.

Montreal Bagels Are Best!

To anyone who’s tried them, it’s obvious that Montreal’s bagels are the best. Bagel makers elsewhere make them by machine and bake them in electric ovens. By comparison, traditional Montreal bagels are made with malt and boiled in a honey-water mixture, which gives them their distinctive golden-brown color. Finally, they are baked in wood-fired ovens.

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