In Defence Of The Scooped-Out Bagel

The subject matter (Photo: Ryan F. Mandelbaum)

When you have your first bagel, it's certainly cause for excitement and wonderment. How did the baker produce this incredible textural mashup of chewy inside and crunchy outside? It might seem ludicrous to scoop this masterpiece out, leaving behind a sad, hollow corpse. I wouldn't, if I were you... but I do.

Nothing beats a fresh, hot, unadulterated bagel, of course, but I'm from the New York suburbs and have had access to good bagels my entire life. I'm past the idea that bagels are untouchable perfection. They have flaws. They're dense and hard to fit into my mouth.

As a sandwich bread, bagels are an unwieldy vessel, a less-than-optimal way to send food from plate to gullet: unless I scoop out the squishy inside to make room for the toppings.

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As exciting as the bagel itself, after all, are the numerous fixings: smoked whitefish, pickled herring, lox, cream cheeses with mix-ins, or even bacon and eggs. My personal preference is vegetable cream cheese with whitefish salad and lox on an everything bagel. If I don't scoop out the inside to make room for layers of fish and dairy, then I'm liable to squeeze as much food onto the plate or my lap as I get into my mouth.

Scooping makes sense. There's already a French sandwich, the Pan Bagnat, that calls for scooping out some of the inside of the bread to make room for stuff. It's simple ergonomics.

Don't confuse this rant for a diet-conscious decision, although apparently scooping can remove a third of the bagel's calories. No, I scoop out my bagels in an attempt to eat even more. Instead of tossing the insides, I'll often toast them into crispy bagel nuggets and dip them into whatever did end up on my plate.

Maybe I'll spread Nutella or jam on them for dessert. And if you're not hungry for a whole bagel, you can't deny that eating a little less bagel will partially lessen the post-bagel stomachache.

Wait, you might think — you're destroying a New York City classic! Consider these New York Post rants from 2010 and 2016 complaining about scooped-out bagels. From the former:

"It's called "scooped out," and it's the disfigured version of the Jewish delicacy that is quickly becoming the norm among New Yorkers — and driving bagel purists and purveyors bonkers.

And the latter:

Few things inspire more passionate disdain among New Yorkers — bagel scoopers are lumped in with people who eat their pizza with a fork or wear flip-flops on the subway. Part of the anger is aimed at the literal gutting of a food New Yorkers regard with beatific pride; part of it is the waste involved — all scoopings go directly into the trash.

I've been scooping out bagels my whole life and had never heard any disdain until I read these articles. It sounds like these folks have some insecurity issues. And tons of things inspire more passionate disdain among New Yorkers than scooped-out bagels.

Say, if you intruded on my personal space by explaining to me why you're scooping out your bagel without my asking (like I'm doing now), or by eating tuna on that scooped-out bagel on the subway. Also, at least one of those authors appears to be from Baltimore, a city I do not associate with bagel expertise.

I respect that bakers who are proud of their bagels might get pissed that someone is destroying their creation. But it's a damn piece of bread. Eat it in a way that makes the most sense to you. If you want to enjoy your sandwich without half of the toppings falling out of the sides, then do what feels right: hold your head high and scoop out your bagel.


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