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"A fascinating topic and one that Maria Balinska treats superbly. . . . I especially admire her scholarship, lively prose and tireless reportorial digging."—Joan Nathan, Moment
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If smoked salmon and cream cheese bring only one thing to mind, you can count yourself among the world’s millions of bagel mavens. But few people are aware of the bagel’s provenance, let alone its adventuresome history. This charming book tells the remarkable story of the bagel’s journey from the tables of seventeenth-century Poland to the freezers of middle America today, a story of often surprising connections between a cheap market-day snack and centuries of Polish, Jewish, and American history.
Research in international archives and numerous personal interviews uncover the bagel’s links with the defeat of the Turks by Polish King Jan Sobieski in 1683, the Yiddish cultural revival of the late nineteenth century, and Jewish migration across the Atlantic to America. There the story moves from the bakeries of New York’s Lower East Side to the Bagel Bakers’ Local 388 Union of the 1960s, and the attentions of the mob. For all its modest size, the bagel has managed to bridge cultural gaps, rescue kings from obscurity, charge the emotions, and challenge received wisdom. Maria Balinska weaves together a rich, quirky, and evocative history of East European Jewry and the unassuming ring-shaped roll the world has taken to its heart.
"Balinska gives readers plenty to chew on. . . . Thoroughly entertaining.”—Dara Horn, Wall Street Journal
‘[The bagel has] found a fresh and lively chronicler in Maria Balinska, who seems as much at home with the bagel’s Polish and Jewish past as with its all-American present … Light and piquant, and yet at the same time seriously satisfying, The Bagel is anything but stodgy fare.’ - Michael Kerrigan, The Scotsman
". . . [A] history of and love-letter to Jewish culture. . . . ranges stylishly from the lifting of the siege of Vienna . . . through . . . the Nazi ghettos . . . to the post-war New York bagel-baking unions and the gradual transformation of the bagel into an 'all-American' food." — Steven Poole, Guardian
From the Italian ciambella in a 17th-century portrait of a young prince to the 1959 album Bagels and Bongos by pianist Irving Fields, journalist and BBC radio editor Balinska traces the cultural identity of a New York City icon from its humble beginnings in Poland to the freezer section of American supermarkets. Balinska's own interest in the bagel began with a year spent in Warsaw, Poland, as a graduate student, where she learned that her "own family history was relevant to that of the bagel." She then unearths a plethora of little-known facts about this breakfast staple, recounting its role in children's nursery rhymes, Poland's economic crisis of 1929, even its place in a McCall's magazine spread in 1963 next to Shirley Temple where the magazine encouraged its readers to "Join the stars below in this salute to Manhattan's most popular breakfast-bagels and lox." While the book may be too dry for the run-of-the- mill bagel lover, academics and dedicated foodies will appreciate Balinska's considerable research as well as her forays into the late 19th-century Jewish immigrant experience and American pop culture. Photos. (Nov.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Though the bagel is a diminutive food, its impact on culture, culinary arts, philosophy, and politics has been considerable.
Posted April 14, 2009
The history of the Bagel I found very interesting, not knowing where it had originated. The author's description and how it all started I found very intriging. The author also included history of the country where it all started and how it became so popular in the United States. I would recommend this to anyone interested in a variety of foods.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.