By Sarayu Pai
At a bonding event for the Society of Women Engineers, we were invited to place a DoorDash order with Izzy’s Bagels, which got me thinking about the power of bagels. Virtually no one will say “no” to a bagel, a traditional bread with strong ties to Jewish and Polish cuisine. Over the years, fulfilling our role as a global melting pot, Americans have adapted the traditional plain bagel flavors and fillings, from the outlandish “Rainbow” bagel in The Bagel Store in New York to the Bruegger’s jalapeño cheese bagel. Although we now stuff our bagels with generous shmears of a smorgasbord of cream cheeses, veggies and the like, what I have found is that we can analogize the structure of a bagel to life.
What is the physical composition of a bagel? In essence, two halves (if the bagel store is kind enough to slice them, and if not, good luck to you because they’re sort of impossible to eat otherwise unless you want to break societal norms). The halves are sort of tough (and crunchy if toasted on the outside) with a usually moist, chewy center (unless they have gone stale past the point of no return). Similar in appearance to their cousin the doughnut, bagels have actually been given their name in acknowledgement of the hole in the middle, with the name deriving from Germanic languages describing something of a ring shape.
The circular shape of a bagel is a metaphor for the “circle of life” and the age-old adage “what goes around comes around.” As children, my brother and I would indulge in eating toasted onion bagels with butter, but as we have grown up, we have graduated to undeniably healthier veggie sandwiches. My grandpa, on the other hand, finds it more difficult to chomp through the chewy bread and prefers his bagels soft with a little cream cheese. Maybe when we also become grandparents, we will go back to our butter-bagel ways.
Moreover, the quintessential ring-shape of the bagel shows how life can be circuitous. While you may be aspiring to reach a certain goal, you might run into obstacles along the way, causing the journey to be longer and more challenging than initially anticipated.
The nitty-gritty details of the bagel exist on the outside, where toppings such as brown sugar, cinnamon, garlic and jalapeño cheese encrust the exterior. These toppings represent the trials and tribulations of life, showing how life can sometimes be messy, with crumbs spilling left and right. However, we appreciate these moments for showing us brilliant new sides of life, such as the rich flavor of garlic or the nostalgic sweetness of cinnamon sugar. Sinking our teeth through the tough exterior and into the soft interior, we see that with hard work and determination, personal success is surely on the way. The experience, in whole (or shall we say, “hole”), is satisfying and rewarding.
Clearly, as we literally broke bread together at our bonding event, we did more than split the two halves of the yeasty, chewy goodness. We opened a treasure trove of amazing possibilities—a Pandora’s box (or Pandora’s bagel).
Contact Sarayu Pai at smpai918 ‘at’ stanford.edu to talk about your favorite bagel order.