69 Years Ago, The New York Times Explained to Readers What a Bagel Is

Is it a roll with a hole, or a hole with a roll?
69 Years Ago, The New York Times Explained to Readers What a Bagel Is

Photo Modified: Flickr/Carl Lender/CC 2.0

In 1946, the bagel made the paper for its unwitting role in complaints about the declining quality of bread. 

Sixty-nine years ago, on May 31, 1946, The New York Times published a definition of the bagel, courtesy of Bronx consumer advocate Dr. Helen Harris, who made the paper for taking Washington officials — including the Secretary of Agriculture — to task over the “increased cost and shrunken size of bread loaves.”

From the Times: “‘A bagel is a hole with a roll around it,’ Dr. Harris informed the officials. ‘Another cut in the weight of bread and this bagel will go as a loaf at the present price of bread, which is 14 cents a pound.’”

For greater clarity, Dr. Harris sent three bagels to Washington for review.

The Times, meanwhile, had rather a different understanding of the now-ubiquitous breakfast bread, explaining at the top of the article, “bagels… are small hard Jewish rolls with holes in the center.”

The week before, the Times also gave a simple definition of the pizza: “a round of dough is baked with tomatoes and anchovies and cheese atop.”

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