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The Bagel

The Bagel was ‘invented’ in 1683 during the war between the Turks and the Holy Roman empire.  I won’t dwell on the politics because my purpose is simply to write about the bagel.

JanSobieskiAnyway, in 1683 the city of Vienna was under siege by the Islamic troops of the Ottoman Empire.  Putting a city under siege is not an easy task.  If the city possesses  the military strength to keep the invaders out, all you can do (if you are the invader) is surround the city and attempt to starve them out.  This could take years!   In the case of Vienna, the siege was broken by Polish troops under the command of Jan III Sobieski – the King of Poland.

After the siege was broken and the Ottoman troops withdrew, the king of the Holy Roman Empire (Leopold I Habsburg) decided to throw a party for King Sobieski.  Now, at the time, there were strict laws as to what Jews could or could not do.  They couldn’t own land, and they couldn’t supervise Christians.  One of the few occupations that Jews could do was to go into baking.  Needless to say, this became a very popular occupation for the Jews of Vienna.  They did well, and created the impressive reputation of Viennese pastries, but for this particular party, the bakers got together and decided to make a couple of special breads.

LeopoldHabsburgThe first of the two would be made into the shape of a stirrup to honor King Sobieski who liked his horses so much.  The bread would be called a “bugle” – which is German for stirrup.  It was a very chewy bread and proved to be quite a hit at the party.  A few years ago, my wife and I were in Vienna and, sure enough, the bagels are still “U” shaped, like a stirrup, and are called bugles.

Now, remember, I said that there were two breads.  The first one would be heavy and chewy — the bugle.  The other would be just the opposite.  It would be very soft and would practically melt in your mouth.  It was called the crescent and it represented the defeated Islamic army.  It became very popular in France — the croissant.


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