[Originally published October 22, 2010.]
Dear People Who Insist That New York is the Only Place to Get a Decent Bagel,
The other day, I ate a bagel at an unassuming local bakery. I admit it was nothing to inspire odes, but as the cashier handed it to me, this guy in a Knicks cap made a face like he was going to chunk all over the counter and then feed his gastric misadventure to the next person in line.
What is it with you militant defenders of New York’s supposed bagel supremacy? When you eat a bagel anywhere outside the five boroughs, you are virtually certain to make some remark like, “they just don’t make ’em right here” or “it’s not H&H!” or “I wouldn’t fuck this bagel, much less eat it.”
But let’s be honest: There is nothing special about the bagels in the Apple, despite ample protestations from the faithful.
Your bagel-elitist argument is full of holes. You’re just throwing your “connoisseurship” around like you’re some urban sophisticate. You’ve got ulterior motives. You like to talk about New York like she’s your pal, like you’ve been grinding hips with her while everyone jealously stares. You think New York’s cosmopolitan shimmer makes the humble—i.e., bagels, you—seem more brilliant—i.e., not you, usually not bagels.
The bagel place in the town where I grew up is called Rosenfeld’s, which is exactly what a bagel place should be called, and the bagels they make are delicious. I defy you to enter that suburban-basement shop and leave with your culinary chauvinism intact. Theirs is a crisp, golden torus. When you bite into a fresh one, the spongy center inflates with a satisfying hiss that seems to whisper in the voice of the ancients, “baruch hashem, you could do worse.”
I know what you’re thinking, that I’m just a naïve, non-New Yorker. You even thought the umlaut thingy because you’re some urban sophisticate. You think my defense of the rest of the world’s breads is silly, incongruous, like one of those human statues they have in Barcelona or having to run laps in your high school gymnasium.
But there’s more at stake here than succulent rings of boiled-then-baked dough. This is about having a basic respect for empiricism. Claims on behalf of the unique spectacularness of New York’s bagels simply aren’t supported by observable data. You might as well urge that Woody Allen has had a good run these last twenty years or that Dick Cheney is a werewolf. He’s not. He’s just a scumbag.
I’ll give you pizza though. Can’t find even a respectable slice elsewhere.