Reviews

Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Though the bagel is a diminutive food, its impact on culture, culinary arts, philosophy, and politics has been considerable. Balinska, a journalist and documentary filmmaker, traces the history of the bagel from its mysterious beginnings through several centuries of Polish history, the Holocaust, and American labor history, to its emergence into popular culture and current ubiquity across the world. Balinska seamlessly transitions from the serious to the frivolous, taking the reader from the Jewish ghetto of German-occupied Warsaw to the madcap marketing extravaganzas of Lender's Bagels-including a mock wedding of bagels and cream cheese held in the 1970s in upstate New York. Entertaining and engaging, this title gracefully and energetically reveals how the bagel, once clearly identified with eastern European Jewish life, became a cultural touchstone-which now has been firmly integrated into the everyday American experience. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-Courtney Greene, DePaul Univ. Lib., Chicago (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

A good addition to the field of culinary history, The Bagel is a worthy if perhaps incomplete study in Jewish culinary experience. Balinska (editor, BBC Radio's World Current Affairs dept. and journalist/ documentary maker) proffers national culinary archaeology, a search that becomes less certain of its results the deeper one digs. Perhaps for this reason chapters discussing the bagel's putative origins seem a stretch, while chapters describing the past century are disproportionately rich in detail. Balinska's suggestion that the Italian ciambella is linked to bagel origins seems acceptable, but why not the ring-like biscochos in the bakeries of Calatayud? And why no mention of the similar Moroccan-Jewish bread baked to celebrate circumcision? Tracing bagel roots to Central Asia is admirable, but staying closer to "home" (Balinska makes an excellent case for Poland as the bagel's birthplace) might have made a more convincing account. Balinska's sketch of interwar Polish Jewish life is both rich and wrenching. Her accounts of grinding poverty and its attendant social ills are echoed in later chapters where she discusses unionization in America. Interviews with Beigel family members should have highlighted the heroism of that baking family in the Krakow ghetto. But this witty, readable, deeply researched book deserves to be read. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers. S. Hammer Boston University


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

The bagel may have grown out of its New York insularity to become an American icon, but its origins are not what many people have come to believe. Historian Balinska traces the bagel's history and discovers antecedents in southern Italy and in Muslim northwest China. Despite the oft-repeated legend, the bagel did not originate as a tribute to Polish king Jan Sobieski after the Battle of Vienna in 1683, for documents citing the ring-shaped bread substantially antedate that event. In the nineteenth century, both Jewish and Gentile bakers sold bagels in local eastern European markets. Jewish immigrants brought the bagel to New York and made it popular. With a keen ear for telling the anecdote, Balinska reports how the bagel entered urban history, how it figured in labor disputes, and how America's bagel capital may have shifted to Mattoon, Illinois, whose bakery daily turns out three million bagels.--Knoblauch, Mark Copyright 2008 Booklist


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From the Italian ciambella in a 17th-century portrait of a young prince to the 1959 album Bagels and Bongos by pianist Irving Fields, journalist and BBC radio editor Balinska traces the cultural identity of a New York City icon from its humble beginnings in Poland to the freezer section of American supermarkets. Balinska's own interest in the bagel began with a year spent in Warsaw, Poland, as a graduate student, where she learned that her "own family history was relevant to that of the bagel." She then unearths a plethora of little-known facts about this breakfast staple, recounting its role in children's nursery rhymes, Poland's economic crisis of 1929, even its place in a McCall's magazine spread in 1963 next to Shirley Temple where the magazine encouraged its readers to "Join the stars below in this salute to Manhattan's most popular breakfast--bagels and lox." While the book may be too dry for the run-of-the- mill bagel lover, academics and dedicated foodies will appreciate Balinska's considerable research as well as her forays into the late 19th-century Jewish immigrant experience and American pop culture. Photos. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Though the bagel is a diminutive food, its impact on culture, culinary arts, philosophy, and politics has been considerable. Balinska, a journalist and documentary filmmaker, traces the history of the bagel from its mysterious beginnings through several centuries of Polish history, the Holocaust, and American labor history, to its emergence into popular culture and current ubiquity across the world. Balinska seamlessly transitions from the serious to the frivolous, taking the reader from the Jewish ghetto of German-occupied Warsaw to the madcap marketing extravaganzas of Lender's Bagels-including a mock wedding of bagels and cream cheese held in the 1970s in upstate New York. Entertaining and engaging, this title gracefully and energetically reveals how the bagel, once clearly identified with eastern European Jewish life, became a cultural touchstone-which now has been firmly integrated into the everyday American experience. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-Courtney Greene, DePaul Univ. Lib., Chicago (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

A good addition to the field of culinary history, The Bagel is a worthy if perhaps incomplete study in Jewish culinary experience. Balinska (editor, BBC Radio's World Current Affairs dept. and journalist/ documentary maker) proffers national culinary archaeology, a search that becomes less certain of its results the deeper one digs. Perhaps for this reason chapters discussing the bagel's putative origins seem a stretch, while chapters describing the past century are disproportionately rich in detail. Balinska's suggestion that the Italian ciambella is linked to bagel origins seems acceptable, but why not the ring-like biscochos in the bakeries of Calatayud? And why no mention of the similar Moroccan-Jewish bread baked to celebrate circumcision? Tracing bagel roots to Central Asia is admirable, but staying closer to "home" (Balinska makes an excellent case for Poland as the bagel's birthplace) might have made a more convincing account. Balinska's sketch of interwar Polish Jewish life is both rich and wrenching. Her accounts of grinding poverty and its attendant social ills are echoed in later chapters where she discusses unionization in America. Interviews with Beigel family members should have highlighted the heroism of that baking family in the Krakow ghetto. But this witty, readable, deeply researched book deserves to be read. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers. S. Hammer Boston University


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

The bagel may have grown out of its New York insularity to become an American icon, but its origins are not what many people have come to believe. Historian Balinska traces the bagel's history and discovers antecedents in southern Italy and in Muslim northwest China. Despite the oft-repeated legend, the bagel did not originate as a tribute to Polish king Jan Sobieski after the Battle of Vienna in 1683, for documents citing the ring-shaped bread substantially antedate that event. In the nineteenth century, both Jewish and Gentile bakers sold bagels in local eastern European markets. Jewish immigrants brought the bagel to New York and made it popular. With a keen ear for telling the anecdote, Balinska reports how the bagel entered urban history, how it figured in labor disputes, and how America's bagel capital may have shifted to Mattoon, Illinois, whose bakery daily turns out three million bagels.--Knoblauch, Mark Copyright 2008 Booklist


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From the Italian ciambella in a 17th-century portrait of a young prince to the 1959 album Bagels and Bongos by pianist Irving Fields, journalist and BBC radio editor Balinska traces the cultural identity of a New York City icon from its humble beginnings in Poland to the freezer section of American supermarkets. Balinska's own interest in the bagel began with a year spent in Warsaw, Poland, as a graduate student, where she learned that her "own family history was relevant to that of the bagel." She then unearths a plethora of little-known facts about this breakfast staple, recounting its role in children's nursery rhymes, Poland's economic crisis of 1929, even its place in a McCall's magazine spread in 1963 next to Shirley Temple where the magazine encouraged its readers to "Join the stars below in this salute to Manhattan's most popular breakfast--bagels and lox." While the book may be too dry for the run-of-the- mill bagel lover, academics and dedicated foodies will appreciate Balinska's considerable research as well as her forays into the late 19th-century Jewish immigrant experience and American pop culture. Photos. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved