Photo by Jerry Wu
On the morning of my son’s bar mitzvah, I remember enjoying a poppy seed bagel with decadent lox and luscious cream cheese. He was on the precipice of being a man, and I was on the precipice of dying from the unusually large poppy seed sealing off my windpipe. As I saw my life flash before my eyes, I realized I left my oven on. The doctors managed to save my life, but nobody managed to save the sesame seeds toasting in my kitchen that evening. I came home to a stovetop on fire and a burning desire to revolutionize the field of bagel toppings.
I used to play checkers with my grandfather. Checkers pieces just remind me of bagels now, because they are round. For so long, I worked day and night to perfect the recipe for the ultimate everything bagel. The everything bagel to end everything. It was the morning of my daughter’s baptism that I cracked the code. As I saw my child get dunked Oreo-style into a tub of water, I imagined what it would look like if my daughter was covered in poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dehydrated onion, and salt. My daughter would have been cleansed of everything. She would have become “Plain Christine,” or “Plain Stephanie,” — I don’t remember what I named my daughter. These days, I just call her “Not-Bagel.”
That checkerboard haunts me, asking questions I’m afraid to answer. Now, I look at it and can think only of the many failures endowed on the human psyche by flawed bagel recipes. You know the ones: the sesame bagel recipe with baking times so inaccurate you burn the seeds beyond recognition, or the poppy seed bagel recipe so poorly balanced that you test positive for opioids the next day and ruin your life. The everything bagel that requires such extravagant ingredients that it leaves your everything with nothing. I have spent too much of my life sifting through grains of salt, painstakingly determining which of the few are pristine enough to top a bagel. My children have since grown and left me behind all alone, with no more bagel toppings to my name.
I stare out into the horizon from my repurposed bathtub full of bagel-boiling liquid and think, “Wouldn’t life be so much simpler if I had known then what I know now?” And then I have to leave the bathtub, because I’m afraid to prune. Anyways, here’s my favorite bagel recipe:
1. Plain Bagels from Ralph’s
- Open the bag and remove a single bagel.
- It is a plain bagel. Attempt to enjoy.
Let me know what you think and share your own bagel stories in the comments! See you next time gluten gang! Bye Baegals!