Tag Archives: history

Context and Bagels


I was talking to my roommate earlier tonight and mentioned people saying that bagels were fattening. We talked about it for a while, and neither of us was able to think of why bagels, of all baked goods, would be particularly fattening. Full of carbs? Yes. Low in fiber? Sure. But where was the fat coming from?

I started asking around on Twitter, and @TwinnerCat chimed in. Bagels used to be made with lard – okay, but “used to be” in what sense, that we would have heard this said in our lifetimes? That there would have been a time when it was so widely used that its absence was noted so strongly? While I waited for an answer, I looked for a recipe for bagels that used lard.

bagelsWere the bagels being fried in lard? Was lard somehow mixed into the dough? Because if it was, wouldn’t that result in something more like pastry?

Digression: A few weekends ago, my mom and I made cookies; I accidentally dropped the sugar in with the dry ingredients instead of beating it into the wet ones (including butter). What resulted was a cakey, floury thing, kind of like a scone. Instead of a cookie. The order you mix things in matters. 

A look at this recipe showed that the lard is not used the same way as it would be in a pie crust, where it’s mixed in with the dry ingredients. Interesting. It reminded me of the cookies. The order things were mixed in mattered, because a bagel does not taste like a pie crust.

Back to the original thought: bagels stopped being made with lard at the same time “they banned saturated fats.”

A ban on trans-fats seems to have arrived in America in 2007. This intersects with my last year in Edinburgh (I say, by way of excusing why I didn’t notice). By 2011, a BMJ (British Medical Journal) study recommended a global ban on goods high in saturated fats as a first step towards preventing cardiovascular disease.

But “they,” in this case, and according to Wikipedia, are the Food and Drug Administration, which makes the ban sound more like a labeling requirement. I’ll need to look further into this if obtaining lard for the cooking experiment becomes a problem, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it in specialty shops around NYC, so I don’t think things will get to that point.

If it does, I’ll be sure to let you all know.

Same thing for the baking project.

PS – Here’s someone else’s bagel-baking adventure. Enjoy.

THEATER REVIEW: Farm Boy (the sequel to War Horse) at @59E59

Last spring, I saw the National Theatre’s War Horse at Lincoln Center, shortly after it was awarded a Tony award. While the production was absolutely impressive, in terms of the technical savvy of the performers and techs, in the end the puppetry didn’t strike me as necessary to the dramatic action of the production; at times, it felt like it separated me from the characters’ experiences.

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The Donners are Deaded: Discussion of a Work in Progress

Cara Marsh Sheffler and Luke Cissell in "Guide" and "Infinite Progress."

How does one reconstruct and learn from a man who died over a hundred years before one was born?

In “Guide” and “(The Myth Of) Infinite Progress,” an intriguing little double-bill-in-development at Williamsburg’s The Brick theater, Cara Marsh Sheffler and Luke Cissell have pieced together a series of verbal and aural interpretations of the life of Lansford Warren Hastings, Esq. Who was Mr. Hastings, you ask? Only the man who sold the Donner party the shortcut that landed them in the mountains during the worst winter in California History, in 1846. Fans of the macabre will know how that worked out. For the rest of you, hie thee to Wikipedia!

How did Hastings influence the Donner party and their travel route? He was a raconteur and writer, in a style that, as portrayed, suggests Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) – with less of a conscience. He traveled West – and later, to Brazil – and wrote guide books to each with a mind to inspire people to emigrate westward. He also sent the Donner party a letter, adjusting his original recommended route to include the shortcut they took…to their doom.

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