Food & Drink: If you can't cook, but want to make a fortune, read on: First it was burgers, then pizza, baked potatoes and croissants. Now bagels are tipped to sweep the fast-food world. Reggie Nadelson brings the news from New York

ONCE, in New York City, the only bakers who could bake a bagel were the bagel bakers of Bagel Bakers Local 338. Admission to this union was limited to sons of the members: anyone who baked a non-union bagel could get his legs broken.

Not any more. In the annals of the fast-food franchise, it is the hour of the bagel. Bagelism is spreading. You think it's impossible? You think there is nothing less universal, less exportable than this hard chewy thing beloved by New York Jews? Well that's why you're not Ray Kroc, the man who invented McDonald's.

Think about it. Who could have predicted that ice-cream made in New Jersey with a fake scando name would have ended up a global business called Haagen-Dazs? Which brain of Britain in Coronation year would have predicted this sovereign isle covered in Pizza Huts?

And what French baker foresaw the rise of the croissant into a sandwich, bloated and soggy, stuffed with spinach and cheese and sold at Euston station?

Across America, bagel chains sprout in California.

You can get bagels baked in Iowa, Kansas, probably Tunbridge Wells.

In March, a bagel bakery opened in Moscow.

Suddenly they are revealed as healthful - low fat, high carbs. Yet, despite their spread from coast to coast, there is in nature no such thing as a McBagel.

According to Leo Rosten, America's premier commentator on subjects of Jewish American folklore, the bagel ('rhymes with Mabel') is 'a shiny roll, hard, crusty and glazed on the outside and chewy in the centre, shaped like a tiny life preserver; it is sometimes referred to as a 'doughnut in rigor mortis.'

The quiddity of a bagel is its texture. Made of unbleached high gluten flour, malt, sugar, salt and yeast, a bagel is boiled then baked and it's the boiling that makes the bagel.

Before the rise of the bagel-making machine, the Kettlemen around New York City had a status not dissimilar to that of the salters at the Caspian Sea who determine the quality of caviar by the quantity of salt put in the sturgeon roe.

Purists feel it is New York water, the world's best, that makes the difference.

The bagel is no neophyte. The bagel is pretty old.

According to Mr Rosten, the first mention of it appears in 1610 in the Jewish Community Regulations of Cracow, where it was stated that a ration of bagel should be given to pregnant women.

On the other hand, according to Marilyn and Tom Bagel (their real name), authors of the Bagel Bible, the bagel was invented by a Jewish baker in Vienna in 1683. By way of thanks to the King of Poland for saving the city from Turkish invaders, a bread roll was made in the shape of a riding stirrup (bugel) to honour the king's passion.

And then, with the immigrants of the early 1900s, the bagel arrived in America. For decades it remained a controlled substance, hand-made, labour-intensive.

In the Sixties, however, the Thompson Bagel Baking Machine - invented by a Canadian - industrialised the bagel. It prospered, although there was still confusion in the boondocks. For instance, according to the New York Times, when Michael Loss opened a bagel shop in Atlanta in 1974 'people would come by to talk about dogs. They thought we were opening a beagle kennel'.

Inherent in mass production were heresies of taste and texture: some bakers gave up boiling and steamed their bagels. In California, the softer bagel reached its nadir: there, like an aged bodybuilder, it grew fatter.

It was purveyed at shops called Los Bagels. Traditionally, a bagel was eaten with a 'shmear' (a thick slick of cream cheese) or with lox (smoked salmon) and cream cheese and maybe a slice of raw onion; now, easier to slice, it was sold as a sandwich with alfalfa sprouts. Or ham. There were Chicken Fried Bagels. Bagels Tartare. Taco Bagels.

Historically, the bagel has come in such flavours as sesame, poppy seed and onion. With the New Age came carrot bagels, Jalapeno bagels, English muffin flavour bagels. At Dizzy Izzys in New York City there are blueberry bagels.

Those who analyse food trends see the bagel as a fast-food winner because it resembles a doughnut with the bad stuff taken out. George Rosenbaum, one such analyst, was quoted as saying recently: 'If you can become a doughnut proxy in the fast-food market, you are no longer an ethnic food.'

Yeah, but you are also no longer a bagel.

Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Automotive Service Advisor - Franchised Main Dealer

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, family owned m...

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable