Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bagels from my Bubba

The comforting, yeasty smell of bagels makes me think of my grandmother Inez Neiman. Whenever she and my grandfather Zacky visited us from L.A., they always brought a big brown paper grocery bag of plain and onion bagels with containers of cream cheese. This was before we had any bagel shops in town, so I always associated bagels with visits from my grandparents.

There's nothing like the chewy satisfaction of eating a whole bagel hand to mouth, the thin crispy crust yielding to the soft goodness inside. I can't eat a bagel without smelling its insides with almost every bite. My all-around favorite bagel flavor is poppy seed, although I have a soft spot for sesame seed and the more modern cinnamon sugar. Lox schmear makes a creamy complement to the savory flavors, and I've never regretted topping toasted halves with butter.

I like all bagels, whether from Noah's, Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels in Palo Alto, or Bagel Street Cafe. My favorite local bagel shop is Posh Bagel at 869 Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park. Here you can get twelve for the price of ten, an improvement on the baker's dozen. You can find over twenty-four mouthwatering kinds of bagels and twelve kinds of cream cheese, good coffee, whitefish, bagel chips, sandwiches, and pizzas. They also make delicious bagel hot dogs, a sure-fire lunch for the family (meaning everyone ends up happy and sated).

I don't look like I had a Jewish grandmother but I really did. After my dad was orphaned in China during World War II, he was adopted by a Marine named Arthur McCartney, and raised by the Neimans in Southern California. So I've grown up feeling part Jewish (and even ended up marrying a Jewish guy) partly because I grew up with my grandmother's culinary concoctions of chopped liver, brisket, kuchen, latkes, rugelach, and of course, the bagels from L.A. Explaining my part-Jewish family can be complicated. But eating a fragrant Posh Bagel warm from of the oven is simply divine.

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