7. The History of the New York City Bagel

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Although New York is arguably home to the world’s best bagels, most food historians agree that bagels originally come from Poland. An old wives tale claims that the first bagel was made in honor of the 17th century King of Poland, John Sobeiski III, and his victory over the Ottomans in the 1683 Battle of Vienna.

According to the story, King Sobeiski was the first ruler who did not enforce the decree of 1496, which restricted the manufacturing of white bread and obwarzanek (bagellike rolls) to the Krakow bakers guild. This ultimately allowed for the Jewish production of bread products, leading up to the creation of the bagel. When Sobieski saved Austria from Turkish invaders, it is said that a baker crafted a roll in the shape of the king’s stirrup, calling it a beugel (Austrian for stirrup).

This tale, however, has been debunked by Maria Balinska, author of The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread. In a 2008 article by the New York Times, Balinska revealed that bagels are likely “cousin[s] to the pretzel” and may have existed even before the Jewish migration to Poland during the Middle Ages.

It is believed that bagels made their way to New York with the migration of Eastern European Jewish immigrants in the late 1800s. Their production began in small, privately owned bakeries, where they were hand rolled, boiled, and baked. As Jews assimilated and moved to different parts of the city, old world culinary staples and traditions were further shared. In the 1960s, bagel consumption in New York City skyrocketed following innovations in packaging and mass distribution channels. By the 1980s, the size of bagels nearly doubled and the New York Bagel, as we know it, was born. Read more here.