“Bagels and Brooklyn go hand in hand,” says Marty Rosenblatt in the opening voiceover of a 1979 video showing how those magical New York bagels get made. “These people in the Midwest, they wouldn’t know a bagel from a donut,” he adds. “The only reason they ever saw a bagel is one fell off a truck.”
The charming—and surprisingly informative—archival video, which was restored by the Brooklyn Public Library, goes behind the scenes in the early morning at a bagel shop as a bunch of guys with mustaches handmake the day’s bagels.
“There’s something in the water,” one of them says by way of explanation while describing the distinctive taste of New York bagels (which are vastly different than, say, Montreal bagels). It also could be the salt, which we see features prominently on the ingredient list.
“It’s good for any type of epidemic that ever happens in Brooklyn,” Rosenblatt says at the end of the video, explaining that bagels can even fix a flat tire in a pinch. “Have a dozen bagels and you’re safe.”
While some things certainly have changed since 1979 (like health department requirements for food workers, for example), many New York establishments still make their bagels by hand. To them, we say dayenu. (And we’ll have a sesame bagel with scallion cream cheese, please.)
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.