More often than not, first time travellers to Montreal arrive in the city packing mental notes of tips and directions of where to go, what to see and reservations to make. Profiling a “real” visit to Montreal by locals will probably run a list of insider things to do and NOT to do while dispelling general ball-busting fears that are conditioned unto the traveler such as Montrealers only speak French, unruly riots that still parade the city supporting various causes, drinking milk from bags while running from Jesuits trying to convert you. Besides the typical taking in the sights and sounds of Montreal, ask any local and they’ll be sure to mention a handful of things that not only are we proud to call our own, but will fight anyone to the death that oppose our claim of having the best of… one of those things are bagels.
What makes Montreal bagels far more superior than any other bagel known in a time of bagel existence?
1. They’re handmade.
Like a snow flake or like the pattern of cheese curds on top of your poutine; of the thousands of masterfully hand pulled, and rolled bagels that are made each day, no two bagels are alike. A world of difference than the ones that are mass produced by Matrix-like incubating machines… then again, if you’ve ever watched any of these guys cut and form bagels, you’d question what planet they’re from as well.
2. They are boiled in honey water before baking.
They’ve found jars of honey that are thousands of years old in ancient excavated tombs in Egypt and at one time was considered a form of currency. When bagels are poached in this slurry of sweet honey and water, this is believed to affect the overall chewiness of our famous bagels as well as give it its distinctive colour and crust.
How can something not be good when it’s bathed in a sweet golden nectar of nature? The science behind how it activates the yeast in the bagel to break down the sugars to prevent it from over rising in the oven or how it sets the crust and tightens up the insides to provide the signature chew is simple, but calculated; who are we to argue the magic that is bee vomit.
3. Cooked in a wood burning oven.
Like the idea of being handmade one by one, the intense wood burning ovens is what makes each and every bagel unique. The licks of heat across the honey infused dough is what give the bagels their toasty colour and burn marks. They are unlike other bagels like New york bagels and grocery store prepackaged stuff, where they are all mass produced and cooked in large stainless steel ovens; cold and heartless… equatable to that “music” like the crap that comes out on John Tesh albums.
4. Montreal bagels have been to SPACE.
Because when you’re going to the International Space Station, the first thing you want to do is pack your carry on with bags of bagels and have sesame seeds floating around and getting in-between knobs and switches. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to pop off keys from the flight deck of the SPACE STATION because the button that locks the door won’t fully depress because of the jerk who brought bagels to the SPACE STATION.
For the record, Astronaut Gregory Chamitoff (Montreal native) brought three bags of sesame seed bagels from Fairmount… also, he probably isn’t a jerk.
5. In a city that’s divided in so many ways, it bring us together.
It doesn’t matter what language you speak, what your ethnic of cultural background you’re from; of the main bagel houses in the city, lines will always be drawn and sides will be picked. Despite the notion of further segregating the city, drawing us together over something tasty will always be something delicious and inviting.
I might be stating the obvious but there are things that need to be screamed at the top of your lungs like when Prince Akeem went out on his first date with Lisa McDowel.
But Montreal bagels are the fucking best.