There’s no such thing as a decent bagel in California: My East Coast best friend never tires of schooling me about America’s woeful delusions regarding this much-beloved breakfast staple. Apparently, what most of us are eating is in fact not a bagel, but a sad simulacrum.
A bread-baking method originally brought to the US by European-Jewish immigrants, the bagel’s dense, chewy interior and browned, crispy exterior are a gustatory landmark. What distinguishes bagels from other breads is that the dough rings are first boiled in water, and then baked. (Most chain bagel shops just steam the dough—cheaper, easier, LAMER!) Another quality that legitimates a bagel is its bigness. Without these two features, you don’t really have a bagel at all. SORRY!
Fortunately, Jason is wrong about California’s failure to produce the real deal. Every morning, San Francisco’s House of Bagels opens its doors and a warm, heart-stirring waft of yeasty, whole-wheat air gushes forth. Prepared in the bonafide New York fashion, this shit’s freaking good; and located a stone’s throw from the Pacific coastline, the experience is enhanced by salty, tangy sea air. It comes close to full-on, fairy-in-the-forest, dancing-unicorn magic—if you dig gluten. (There are lots of good gluten-free things, like quinoa crackers and cornbread muffins, but bagels are definitely not one of them.)
It’s fashionable among vegans to decry any food derived from animals, and given the shameful living conditions of dairy cattle in factory farms, I agree with them. Even USDA organic-certified farms are only a small step-up from the miserable exploitation and abuse these cows never asked to be born into. That said, mainstream vegan orthodoxy poses a host of troubling, unquestioned assumptions, and I’m SO OVER IT. My bent these days is whole-earth ecology.
It’s a radical, vital act to support humane, sustainable dairy farms. They are models for synergistic, mutual relationships with animals—the cows give milk and the farmers give food, shelter, protection from predators, and the high quality of life that all animals deserve.
As for bagels: Californians, take heart! The West Coast might be bereft of legit bagels, but we’ve totally got a premium on organic, shade-grown, fair-trade, shop-roasted boutique coffee….all you can find in New York is Starbucks. BORING!
PS: Speaking of ethical dairy…you can win a gift certificate for Straus Family Creamery products! Wanna win? ‘Like’ the Eating with Abs Facebook page; leave a message on the wall stating why you heart fresh, whole food. Fun and cool. Four winners will be selected using an online, automated randomizer.