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The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread - Softcover

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A captivating cultural history of the bagel and its journey through the centuries

If smoked salmon and cream cheese bring only one thing to mind, you can count yourself among the world’s millions of bagel mavens. But few people are aware of the bagel’s provenance, let alone its adventuresome history. This charming book tells the remarkable story of the bagel’s journey from the tables of seventeenth-century Poland to the freezers of middle America today, a story of often surprising connections between a cheap market-day snack and centuries of Polish, Jewish, and American history.

Research in international archives and numerous personal interviews uncover the bagel’s links with the defeat of the Turks by Polish King Jan Sobieski in 1683, the Yiddish cultural revival of the late nineteenth century, and Jewish migration across the Atlantic to America. There the story moves from the bakeries of New York’s Lower East Side to the Bagel Bakers’ Local 388 Union of the 1960s, and the attentions of the mob. For all its modest size, the bagel has managed to bridge cultural gaps, rescue kings from obscurity, charge the emotions, and challenge received wisdom. Maria Balinska weaves together a rich, quirky, and evocative history of East European Jewry and the unassuming ring-shaped roll the world has taken to its heart.

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About the Author:

Maria Balinska is editor of BBC Radio’s World Current Affairs department, and a journalist and documentary maker specializing in Eastern Europe and the United States. She lives in London.

From Publishers Weekly:
From the Italian ciambella in a 17th-century portrait of a young prince to the 1959 album Bagels and Bongos by pianist Irving Fields, journalist and BBC radio editor Balinska traces the cultural identity of a New York City icon from its humble beginnings in Poland to the freezer section of American supermarkets. Balinska's own interest in the bagel began with a year spent in Warsaw, Poland, as a graduate student, where she learned that her own family history was relevant to that of the bagel. She then unearths a plethora of little-known facts about this breakfast staple, recounting its role in children's nursery rhymes, Poland's economic crisis of 1929, even its place in a McCall's magazine spread in 1963 next to Shirley Temple where the magazine encouraged its readers to Join the stars below in this salute to Manhattan's most popular breakfast—bagels and lox. While the book may be too dry for the run-of-the- mill bagel lover, academics and dedicated foodies will appreciate Balinska's considerable research as well as her forays into the late 19th-century Jewish immigrant experience and American pop culture. Photos. (Nov.)
Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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  • PublisherYale University Press
  • Publication date2009
  • ISBN 10 0300158203
  • ISBN 13 9780300158205
  • BindingPaperback
  • Number of pages240
  • Rating
    3.58 avg rating
    ( 167 ratings by Goodreads )

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