Friday, September 22, 2006

Salt bagels and jalapeno cream cheese

Growing up in the Bible Belt, Judaism was under my radar, I'm ashamed to say. Yom Kippur wasn’t a school holiday, and hamentashen was just a buttery fruit-filled cookie. But even though I didn’t have a name for it, I was fascinated with Jewish culture as a kid. When my father’s friend's daughter had her bat mitzvah, I was eager to attend as Devo had played at Muffy Tepperman’s bat mitzvah on the TV show Square Pegs, therefore making the religious ceremony very cool. And in Woody Allen movies, I kept hearing about this mysterious sounding food combination called bagels and lox, so the first time I saw it on a menu in a Houston restaurant, I ordered it and fell in love.

Tonight at sundown is Rosh Hashana. And while I don’t have honey cake, I do have this: a book I’m eager to read. It’s called Matzoh Ball Gumbo, and it surveys what it means to be a Southern Jew from a culinary perspective. More cultural history than recipe tome, its central theme is that a culture is partly defined by the foods eaten and shared, something I certainly agree with. And when we’re displaced, how we readjust our culture to fit with our new surroundings--something I completely identify with being a Homesick Texan and all.

Perhaps I’ll write a book called Salt Bagels and Jalapeno Cream Cheese.

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WhiteTrashBBQ said...

Salt Bagels and Jalapeno Cream Cheese? I'm not knocking it until I try it - but not exactly purist if ya know what I mean!

Yvo said...

Oh and I meant to say on my last comment, I love that picture where you can't really see what's been chicken fried... but you want to eat it anyway. *drool* Great photography!

Funny enough, growing up in New York, I don't know what hamentashen is... and I hate lox (well, I dislike smoked salmon in general, but love it raw or seared or... you get the picture). But I love bagels... and cream cheese... yumm!!!

I can imagine how hard it must be to grow up in the Bible Belt while Jewish, not only because of the obvious blatant religious differences, but food, the universal icebreaker, must be a hard call too. What with Jewish people not being able to eat pig products... wow. I can't even begin to imagine the divide that automatically creates for people to try to understand each other when in reality, they're not that different, after all, we're all people, right?

Great post, really made me think :)

PS Thanks also for dropping by! I'm eager to continue on my tour of steakhouses, but I realized I haven't yet posted about why and how it came to be... so expect that one shortly. :)

melissa mcgee said...

great post! i take jewish holidays and holy days for granted, being gentile and all ;) but growing up, my best friend sara was a "step jew"; her gentile father had married a jewish woman, and i got to attend passover seder once - quite an eye opening and beautiful holy celebration, even if her baptist, texan father kept a loaf of mrs. baird's white bread on the floor next to his chair so as not to have any leaven bread on the passover table. ha. i love that story.

living in dallas, i fell in love with a diner called "deli news" with all of their billions of varieties of freshly made bagels (which i loved to take with lox and a schmeer) and their sumptious menu of kosher delights and delicacies. i adore kosher food, even if i can't rightly pronounce all of it.

great post!

melissa mcgee said...

that should have read "sumptuous". wooops. i'm a moron.

Danielle said...

I think that'd be a great title for a cookbook.

christine (myplateoryours) said...

I *love* that bagel photo. Makes me want a real New York bagel right now! That's one of the things I miss the most here in the midwest, where bagels all seem to be "Americanized" -- made for denture wearers or those who don't want to work too hard for their food. A good bagel has some chew!

I lust after bagels and lox, but salted with jalapeno cream cheese sounds right up my alley too.

(I have to say even the last time I was in NY I had trouble findng a good bagel. What's the world coming to? Sigh...)

Homesick Texan said...

White Trash BBQ--It's good stuff, trust me.

Yvo--Thanks! And glad I inspired some thought!

Melissa--I love that he kept a loaf of Mrs. Baird's on the floor! And I've never been to Deli News--will have to try it next time I'm in the Metroplex.


Christine--I'm surprised it was difficult for you to find a good bagel in NY, but you probably have a higher standard for bagels than I. I grew up with frozen Lender's so any bagel is an improvement on those. This is a bagel from Murray's, a block away from me. It's a good bagel place, better than most. Absolute Bagels (Ed Levine's favorite, as well as mine) are divine but I no longer live on the far Upper West Side so it's rare I have a chance to eat them.

oddlycalm said...

Salted bagels with jalapeno cream cheese is the best. I'll even settle for it on an English muffin in a pinch when out of range of bagels.

Apparently Kraft has quite making jalapeno cream cheese, so it's back to rolling my own which is better anyway.

hungryhoustonianinupstateny said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE salt bagels and jalapeno cream cheese!!! I am shocked that others do too. I used to live and work in The Woodlands, TX and there was a bagel shop right next door to my office. I'd pop in there just about every morning for my "fix". :) Sooo good!!

Paula said...

What is the world coming to? I frequently shopped at Kroger in Houston until I found they had tampered with their bagel recipe. They now go directly from rising to oven, skipping the all important boiling process which is what results in the chewiness that distinguishes a bagel from any other bread product. When I asked to see the bakery manager and explained that what he was advertising as a bagel was at best a Kaiser roll with a hole in the center, he looked at me as though I had lost my mind. I suggested he go down the street to HEB or to Kenny and Ziggy's Deli or the New York Bagel Shop and do a textural comparison but he refused even after I offered to pay for his bagel. I thought maybe it was just the one store where this anomaly had occured, but alas, it is the same at all the Kroger stores within a 10 mile radius of my house. I usually spend quite a bit every week on groceries, including a dozen bagels but now that money is no longer going into Krogers' "coffers". They took a shortcut and it has cost them. Bagels are now universal and everyone I have mentioned this to is up in arms. Is this happening just in Houston or has anyone else noticed this at other Kroger stores around the country?

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