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The Symbolism of a Bagel

Rener Eder on Monday, August 6, 2018

I love bagels, especially if there is cream cheese and lox (smoked salmon) on them! I grew up in New York, where good bagels were plentiful and learned to love bagels here in Virginia, too. Plain, everything, cinnamon raisin, chocolate chip, and pretzel… I could never be on a low-carb diet!

I'm sure many people out there share my sentiments about delicious, round, boiled then baked bagels. But I wonder if you bagel-lovers know all of these really cool facts about them, and why bagels are even considered symbolic for Jewish people.

Here are the facts:

- The word bagel means “bracelet” in German.
- Because of their shape—with no beginning and no end—bagels symbolize the eternal cycle of life.
- In the old days, bagels were supposed to be a protection against demons and evil spirits, warding off the evil eye and bringing good luck. For these reasons, they were served at circumcisions and when a woman was in labor and also at funerals, along with hard‑boiled eggs.
- Similar to challah, bagels are of South German origin, but they came into their own in the Polish shtetl.
- Bagels were first sold on the street by vendors with baskets or hanging on long sticks, and they had to have a license. Illegal selling of bagels by children was common to help their poor families.
-When the Jews left Eastern Europe in great masses for America, Canada, and Europe, many sold bagels from pushcarts on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and in the East End of London.

Although so many new varieties of bagels have now appeared, purists will have only the original plain water bagels, which are made by throwing rings of risen dough in boiling water for a few seconds, then draining, cooling, and baking quickly till golden, shiny, and crisp. They are wonderful when very, very fresh and of course, delicious when served with cream cheese and lox, plain, or with other topping combinations!

Fellow bagel lovers: I invite you to post where you go for the best bagels in town!

 

 

 

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