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When Bagels Aren’t Boiled, Tempers Boil Over

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Oct 06, 2014

This week's episode of The Sporkful is up! Listen through the player and subscribe in iTunes.

As you'll hear in this week's episode of The Sporkful, people have strong opinions about bagels.

When BuzzFeed assembled a team of judges to pick the best bagel in New York, one judge--former congressman Anthony Weiner--went apoplectic when he heard the bagels might be sliced into bite-sized morsels before facing scrutiny.

"I'm leaving. That's offensive to my sensibilities!" he cried. "You don't eat a bagel in little bits." (Weiner prevailed on the organizers. He stayed.)

In fairness, the congressman wasn't just grandstanding. He worked at a bagel shop in Brooklyn before getting into politics. In this week's episode of The Sporkful, he lays out some pretty good reasons why you need to see a bagel whole to evaluate it. (In short, it's all about the boiling.)

And he's not the only one in the show with strong feelings. On the Media's Brooke Gladstone decries the move towards bagels that are bigger, puffier, less crusty, and in danger of losing their trademark holes.

"Having something called a bagel which is really just a kaiser roll with a gloss is a betrayal," Brooke says. "It isn't so much the presence of the hole, it's what the disappearing hole represents, or portends."

Plus, I argue with Marketplace's Mark Garrison about when it's appropriate to toast a bagel, and bagel historian Maria Belinska joins me to explain exactly why the boiling is so important, why they have holes in the first place, and whether there's any truth to the idea that New York bagels are better because of the water. (Maria's book is called The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread.)

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Music in this episode by BWN Music:

- "Funky Love Baby" by Steve Pierson

- "Agree To Disagree" by Cullen Fitzpatrick

- "Brotherly Love" by Cullen Fitzpatrick

- "Mother Tucker" by Steve Pierson

Photo: Flickr CC / Liz West

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