Bagel History

A new book by Maria Balinska, an editor at BBC Radio, takes a look at cream cheese’s favorite bread product. The Bagel: A Cultural History (Yale Univ. Press) evidently traces the bagel from the nether reaches of history to present day, with–maybe not surprisingly–a whole bunch of time spent on 19th century American Jewish life.
Though it has several possible ancestors, Balinska suggests that the bagel-as-we-know-it may have been born in 17th c. Poland, as attested in a speculative (and possibly fictional) legend about the 1683 Battle of Vienna. Slate summarizes:

As the story goes, 17th-century Poland was the breadbasket of Europe, and King Jan Sobieski was the first king not to confirm the decree of 1496 limiting the production of white bread and obwarzanek (bagellike rolls whose name derives from a word meaning “to parboil”) to the Krakow bakers guild. This meant that Jews could finally bake bread within the confines of the city walls. Furthermore, when Sobieski saved Austria from the Turkish invaders, a baker made a roll in the shape of the king’s stirrup and called it a beugel (the Austrian word for stirrup). As Balinska says, “Whatever its origin, the story of the bagel being created in honor of Jan Sobieski and his victory in Vienna has endured.”
….Once bagels became popular in Krakow, the Jewish bakers began making them in their own bakeries due to the strictness of Jewish dietary laws.

All very interesting. But what I want to know is whether Balinska weighs in on the H&H vs. Ess-a-Bagel debate. Not like the answer isn’t totally obvious, but still.

One thought on “Bagel History

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.