Bagels have a long and delicious history for Jews — and of course, New Yorkers. The bagel arrived in the United States with Jewish immigrants from Poland in the late 19th century. Long before they was schmeared with cream cheese and topped with lox, they were sold on the streets of New York City’s Lower East Side, stacked up on poles or hung from strings — fun fact: that’s why they have a hole — for people to buy and enjoy on the street. Bagels were a simple, comforting peasant food.
But something I recently discovered is that the bagel did not come over from “the old country” covered in garlic, onion, poppy and sesame seeds.
That’s right, the beloved everything bagel is a relatively new invention, which I learned while reading a fascinating recent article in Atlas Obscura exploring its origins.
According to Dan Nosowitz, the everything bagel was born around 1980 when it was accidentally created by David Gussin, who was a teenager working at Charlie’s Bagels in Queens at the time. While cleaning out the ovens, Gussin suggested to the owner, Charlie, to “make a bagel out of these,” referring to the excess bagel toppings that had fallen off while baking. And just like that, the everything bagel was born.
But the marker of a true everything bagel isn’t just the seeds; it’s the combination of the right seeds (poppy, sesame, garlic, onion, and salt), as well as the double baked element. Meaning, just because a bagel is called “everything” doesn’t mean it’s authentic to its original iteration dating back to Queens. “In fact, Gussin says that burning the seeds is key. In his creation, the toppings are baked twice, once while falling off a single-topping bagel and again together. The bitterness of the burnt onion and garlic, especially, are key to balancing out the fattiness of cream cheese and lox,” writes Nosowitz.
It seems to me that today we regard the everything bagel in the highest esteem as one of the most classic bagel flavors. But it’s good to remember that even this highly respected bagel flavor is a relatively new invention, proving that Jewish food is truly ever-evolving. What will the teenagers think of next?