Spring break is all about bagels. Anyone who disputes this is an asshole.
Last week I was fortunate enough to have bagels in TWO different countries. In fact, my trek north from Washington DC inadvertently took me through the heart of America’s bagel culture, and on into Canada, giving me a rare opportunity to compare experiences with the crumbs of each day’s previous bagel still stuck in my mustache.
Am I a bagel expert? Not quite, but I have some opinions. And some ideas I want to share.
That bagel sitting on my lap in the picture above? It’s from Montreal.
From what I can tell from online sources, the main stated difference between a Montreal bagel and New York one is the water mixture that the dough is boiled in before it’s baked (Montreal doesn’t use salt or something). The holes are bigger in Montreal bagels but you can’t really tell that in the picture of the one on my lap. If you have a keen eye, you can pretend you notice the difference in the picture above.
But the REAL difference between NY and Montreal bagels? Lines.
I mean, what the hell. It’s just a bagel. In New York, there’s probably a few million bagels in circulation at any given point in the day. You should be able to just wait until one hits you on the subway. These people are all lined up for the fun experience of waiting out in the cold for a bagel. Some of them are probably assholes. This is New York, after all.
When I went to this place with my sister, the woman behind us complained because my sister went around the corner to throw something out, and when she came back the woman insisted that she’d “lost her place in line” and should have to wait in the back. We reminded her what she was in line to buy, and then headed next door to a nice tacqueria where you don’t have to stand in the cold for a bagel.
In Montreal, by contrast, the Saint Viaturs flagship bakeries are in the ulta-Orthodox parts of town and the Hasidim are way too scary for you want to wait in line for a bagel. So me and my friend were able to walk right in and grab a few…FOR EIGHTY FIVE CENTS.
You can have a nice bagel and cream cheese for under two dollars. The bagel itself is tougher and less fluffy than American versions. I know this because that is what it says on the website. But I can confirm this from personal experience as well. Montreal bagels are definitely a doughier experience. They’re also not quite as flashy.
New York bagels are still the best, but even despite their unbeatable deliciousness, delis don’t seem to trust their inherent worth. Blame it on our modern age’s ridiculous trend toward novelty foods, but now you can’t just have some nice lox and schmear on a regular, traditional sesame or poppy seed pastry.
I’m all for having nice things. But the bagel shop in Brooklyn (see picture above) offers bacon egg and cheese bagels (???), salt and vinegar bagels, TWINKIE bagels, and more monstrosities. That bagel on the bottom right looks like it’s hymen hasn’t been broken yet. I’m not sure if I actually care about this, but it gives me something to write about.
Anyway, if you want to do bagel flavors right, you are best off going to Bruegger’s bagel shops, which originated in THE CAPITAL DISTRICT, Troy New York. This might be the only thing that gives me hometown pride.
Bruegger’s has had some silly (but good) bagel flavors. Sourdough. Jalapeno Cheddar. But most importantly, Bruegger’s realizes that you save the crazy for the SPREAD, not the bagel itself? Feeling a little CRAZY? How about pumpkin cream cheese? Or butternut squash salmon? Prickly pear ice cream? Dill yogurt mustard meatloaf? Bruegger’s has a different special flavor every month. Knowing what’s in my parent’s fridge, there’s probably an opened container of raisin cilantro papaya from March 1993.
So in summary, if you want a bagel, go to Montreal. Or go to Bruegger’s. But do NOT buy a fucking FLAGEL.
Just say no to flagels. Don’t encourage them.
I also saw “Cosmos” this week.
I was hesitant to watch the new version at first, because I’m a very big fan of the original version with Carl Sagan, and I have very fond memories of going home after school in senior year and watching all the episodes. Is it irony, incestuous or something else entirely that Neil Degrasse Tyson explains that in his career he had a direct relationship with the former and that Tyson and Sagan’s surviving wife, Ann Druyan, have been trying to produce a new version of the series for the better part of the new millennium?
It’s interesting, then, that Tyson’s cosmos is presented as a supplement or even a homage to the first version. I was initially afraid that the whole thing was just going to be an exercise in rebranding, but it turns out the opposite is true: the new show is actually weakest when Tyson is trying to his best to walk under Sagan’s shadow; when Tyson breaks the format of the original show, and offers his own unique insights, the show realizes its potential.
Some of that is when Tyson is tackling the contentions that have dogged modern science. In Sagan’s time, the biggest controversy he grappled with was nuclear technology and the danger of all-out nuclear war. Quite a bit of the original “Cosmos” is devoted to framing humanity in its cosmological context, including the ominous possibility that some intelligent species reach a point where they destroy themselves with their own advanced technology. Really, it’s still a salient point, but at least today’s hawks aren’t pretending that nuclear war is a defensible, winnable strategy, as they were in the seventies and eighties.
In the second episode, Tyson pulls no punches describing creationists and intelligent design believers as slimy double crossing no good swindlers. Focusing on the development of the eye, Tyson debunks the concept that organisms are too complex or fabulous to have been created by anything other than the hand of god. Nothing about the form of the human eye cannot be explained adequately by the process of evolution, and even if one were to argue that God is the “guiding hand” or initial spark behind (and between) these processes, at that point he/she/it has been reduced to a more spiritual, metaphysical (and abstract) presence, bearing no resemblance whatsoever to the hierarchical personified version that exists in Ken Hamm’s imagination.
Here’s a nice critique of Tyson’s work so far here:
He’s done an excellent job of attacking the idea of “balance” in the argument between evolution and creationism. They are not opposite sides of the same coin. One is science, the other is junk.
Based on hints he’s given in the three episodes so far, perhaps a similar defense of climate change and global warming can be expected as well.
If Tyson can make people understand that climate change is NOT a scientific debate, but currently a POLITICAL (media-driven) one, then maybe he won’t have to stand inside Carl Sagan’s shadow anymore.