My mother-in-law is a lovely person — gracious, accepting, and welcoming — but there are some culinary choices that she simply cannot wrap her head around. Not just that she doesn't like them; she literally cannot understand how someone else would like that particular food. She can kind-of figure out when I mean when I talk about brute force hacking and why it's so important to use a password manager. But she simply cannot fathom why anyone would ever eat an everything bagel.
To be clear, her opinion on this matter is categorically wrong. Most people I know are the opposite: we think Everything should be the default bagel topping. If you want to mix it up — maybe you're just feeling plain today, or you really want to make it pop with the ol' Jalapeño-Cheddar combo — then you can absolutely have at it. But if you're ordering bagels for a group, for example, it just makes sense to go with a mostly-Everything order. It'll guarantee that everyone's day starts off just a little brighter. And maybe a little garlick-y-er, sure. But that's a small price to pay for pleasure.
I thought of all this as I munched on an Everywhere Bagel (Everything, but with all the toppings coated on the bottom, too — a specialty from my local bagel heaven) and read this delightful AtlasObscura piece on the who and the how of this perfect bagel's invention
By his own and most other accounts, that person was David Gussin. Around 1979 or 1980, he says, he was a teenager working at Charlie's Bagels in the Howard Beach neighborhood of Queens, New York. "It didn't actually say 'Charlie's Bagels,' it just said 'Bagels,' but it was Charlie's," says Gussin. He was doing typical teenage job stuff: cleaning, working the counter—and cleaning the oven, where excess bagel toppings accumulated when they fell off. "One day instead of throwing them out like I usually did, I gave them to Charlie and said, 'Hey, make a bagel with these, we'll call it the everything bagel.' It wasn't that big of a deal; we weren't looking to make the next big bagel. Charlie was probably more interested in what horses he was going to bet on."
Charlie tried Gussin's idea. At first, it was a limited-edition offering, made only with the toppings that fell off in the oven. It cost, Gussin remembers, five cents more than the other bagels. Soon, a shop across the street started selling their own everything bagels, and word slowly spread. The first mention I can find of the everything bagel is in a New York Times food column from 1988, and at that time the concept was new or niche or local enough that the writer felt it necessary to place "everything bagel" in quotes and define it.
This excerpt is of course a simplification; like most food inventions, the true origins of the Everything Bagel are much more complicated. Writer Dan Nosowitz also goes just enough in-depth into the general history of bagels and toppings to make for what is ultimately a chewy and satisfying breakfast read. I would recommend consuming it with your breakfast of choice, whatever that may be — just as long as we all acknowledge that Cinnamon Raisin bagels should be categorized as pastries, not a savory bagel.
Everything You Need to Know About the True Origins of the Everything Bagel [Dan Nosowitz / Atlas Obscura]
Image: Jaysin Trevino / Flickr (CC 2.0)