You can either thank or blame Daniel Thompson for creating the bagel machine.
Thompson, who died this week at age 94, helped take the bagel mainstream with a contraption that could manufacture hundreds of bagels an hour. British-born, Thompson was himself the son of a Jewish baker.
But in 1963, his invention fell into the hands of Lender’s, then a small Connecticut bagel maker. And frozen, bagged bagels were unleashed on the world.
Though some “grateful consumers” believed Thompson “democratized the bagel,” according to his New York Times obituary, bagel believers in cities like New York and Montreal kvetched.
For them, “even invective-rich Yiddish lacks words critical enough to describe a machine-made bagel, though ‘shande’ — disgrace — perhaps comes closest,” the Times wrote.
It’s easy to forget the bagel’s journey from obscurity to fetish food object. These days, they’re riding an artisan comeback, with producers like Black Seed, Baz, and San Francisco’s Wise Sons jumping into the circle.
But as the Times noted, “the traditional bagel for years remained so obscure — so ethnic — that as late as 1960 The New York Times Magazine felt obliged to define it for a national readership as ‘an unsweetened doughnut with rigor mortis.’”