Who knew a bagel could command such respect and power. The customers who were speaking with the Starbucks manager were delighted that their valiant efforts had brought back the chonga bagel. It was clearly a huge victory which they were preparing to celebrate all day.
This is very understandable to me. I love bagels; or, perhaps I just love cream cheese and need a good solid bread to shmear it on. But whatever the reason, I can sympathize with their devotion to this food. Hearing their enthusiasm made me want to thank the originators of this manna. But I was at a loss as to who deserved my gratitude. It turns out, there are many people to thank.
It is clear that the concept of a bread with a hole in the center has been around a really long time... what better way to carry food with you? I was thrilled to learn that Italians had their cracker-like version (Puglia created the Taralli and the Romans had buccalletum). There are also different crackers or breads with holes found in ancient China and Egypt (perhaps this will convince my daughter to try them). It doesn't seem to be until the 1600s, however, that Poland solidified the boiled and baked bagel as we know it in America today. The stories attributing this, and more information on the history of the bagel, can be found in a great article by Joan Nathan, A Short History of the Bagel, and in Maria Balinska's book, The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread. (Just in case any of my readers love Bagels as much as I do).
But bagel loving goes much deeper than an affinity for a holey bread. Clearly these Starbucks customers had a favorite type of bagel: the chonga (can you say moderation?) To me the chonga, which includes just about every savory substance other than hamburger baked onto it, is over-kill. Why not just put it all on a piece of bread? I like to actually taste the bagel itself. But, this is the beauty of the American Bagel. As with many products, we have institutionalized the idea of choice. Chocolate chip bagels... fruit bagels... cheese and onion and sun-dried tomato bagels (and here in Portland I am sure I would be able to find a chocolate chip-bacon bagel). If you can dream it it is a bagel.
So my gratitude goes much farther, I guess, than simply the ones who came up with a boiled, baked, bread wiht a hole. I am grateful too for the American culture which drives the delivery of choice; and not just for bagels, but many other things as well. It means that some people want to (and can) read deep, introspective literature, while others read light, cotton-candy ficiton. It's all good... and it's all available. And thank God for that!!!!!!
Because, after all this talk of bagels I plan to go to Noah's today for lunch; and, I know when I get there, I'll have many more options than an over-the-top chonga bagel. (If you are looking for one of those, try Starbucks.)