Were you thinking pizza lumbered down the mountainside, fully formed? That the ancients plucked gyros from the surf and ate them whole? I bring news. That’s not how it happened.
Here is a true story. I’m sure of it. Once upon a time, somebody wandered into a room and inquired, idly and probably in Yiddish, “Hey, whatcha havin’?” And the other person said “I am having a circlebread sliced in half, with slippery brined fish and pickled flower buds and raw onion and and thick curdled milk crammed into the middle of it. Also tomato, if we are having this conversation during one of the 72 hours or so during which tomatoes in this region are ever actually in season and worth eating.” And the first guy thought to himself, but hopefully refrained from saying, That is the most revolting thing I’ve ever heard of. Now, of course, that’s just how you eat a bagel. Unless the bagel also has dried grapes and cinnamon in it. That would be a weird combination of foods, I guess.
We went over this with guacamole. But what the hell, let’s do it again. The familiar combinations of bagel stuff are the familiar combinations of bagel stuff because they were the available combinations of stuff in the part of the world where bagels became a thing. They have persisted in that role because they taste good and taste good together, and also for the infinitely lesser reason that at any given time there are some people who will appreciate either the novelty or the tradition of eating a bagel The Way You Eat A Bagel. But a bagel’s job, no matter what you put on it or in it, is not to be novel or traditional. A bagel’s job is to be a satisfying thing to eat.
Nowhere is this more true than in the famous New York City, where everyone is never more than a short walk from 10,000 other perfectly fine things to eat. You can eat anything there, so pretty much the sole compelling reason to eat this and not that, among the options not disqualified by price or dietary restriction, is that it’s what will make your senses happiest. Implicit in this is that your bagel order will be exactly the bagel order you choose for yourself after considering only what you want to eat, can eat, and can afford. If you enjoy it, then it is by definition correct.
But the stupid question of whether Cynthia Nixon’s controversial bagel order—lox, schmear, red onion, capers, tomato, on a (gasp) cinnamon-raisin bagel—is wrong, which it is not, is a different question from whether it tastes good. As an idea, it seems weird and maybe gross! Cinnamon and lox. Raisins... and lox! Cinnamon and raisins and lox. Seems kinda gross.
Then again, so does the idea of cracking open the shell of a living, mud-slurping bivalve with a body like a giant wad of beige-grey cigarette-smoker snot and sucking the still-alive creature out and into your mouth and chewing it and swallowing it. Thank God nobody left to Gothamist the question of whether raw oysters ever would enter the human diet.
The thing is, there are two kinds of people: There are good people, and there are finicky eaters. The idea is to be the former, or to strive to be the former. Do not fool yourself that your cringing distaste for the flavor combinations other people enjoy is sophistication or high standards or refinement. An example of high standards is preferring not to eat corporate food made from factory-farmed animals that lived horrible, nightmarish lives and died awfully, even if that food is pumped with chemicals and artificial flavorings that make it taste great. Ew, putting those two fwavows togethew is weiwd is not high standards. That’s just being a baby. This is just to be clear.
Anyway, I tried Cynthia Nixon’s bagel order, this morning in my home. I am an extremely old person with a metabolism that should be measured in cosmic units; I eat one meal—dinner—on most days, and a bagel maybe three or four times a year, at most, including whenever I happen to be in New York City around breakfast time. This particular bagel made me sleepy and feeling sleepy before 11:00 in the morning made me cranky, which is why this blog is like this, rather than being good.
Below is a glamour shot of the ingredients, including a disappointingly dense and flattened cinnamon-raisin bagel that was the only one I could find this morning out here in the sticks of western Maryland. This particular bakery had very good poppyseed bagels, but only a handful of fairly dismal-looking cinnamon-raisin ones.
Note: Tomato Time is over, here. That’s almost certainly the last good tomato I’ll have until next August. If Cynthia Nixon is still placing this bagel order in December, that will be a time to give her shit about it.
My usual bagel order is all the usual stuff—lox, cream cheese, red onion, capers, tomato—on a poppyseed bagel, or sometimes a pumpernickel bagel, or what the hell, maybe an everything bagel. I had never previously tried it on a cinnamon raisin bagel, but here is a fun fact: When I told my wife, who does not particularly care about New York politics or bagels, about Cynthia Nixon’s scandalous bagel and the plan for me to try it at home, she confessed that that’s actually her favorite bagel order, too. I double-checked to make sure she is not in fact Cynthia Nixon and can report that she is not. Small world!
Anyway here is the resulting bagel sandwich:
Look at that big ol’ raisin over there. It won’t let you forget!
Friends, it was fine. More than fine, even. It was yummy! Even aboard that mediocre, dense, flattened bagel, the cinnamon and raisin were... assets? I actively liked their presence in each bite. Ideally here is where I would say, like, the cinnamon imparted a pungent, earthy whatever, but that bagel was more bready calories than I have eaten in the previous dozen mornings combined and I am quickly becoming comatose and need to wrap this up. I’m just going to sit here with glassy eyes and a slack jaw and try not to doze off for the next several hours but I want to convey that the bagel was good. It now occurs to me that maybe I should have taken tasting notes while eating it. Oh well.
The point here is, ah, now nobody can say I didn’t write anything today. This blog is over!