Tuesday, July 9, 2019

More on the Origin of the Everything Bagel

Who created the Everything Bagel? It's an issue mired in contention, with several different individuals claiming to have invented it. The main problem is that none of the contenders have offered sufficient evidence to support their claims.

A couple weeks ago, I read an Atlas Obscura article, Everything You Need to Know About the True Origins of the Everything Bagel by Dan Nosowitz. I enjoy Atlas Obscura, as it often showcases fascinating stories and locations. In general, Nosowitz wrote a very good article on this topic, although his research missed some items. When I researched my own lengthy Bagel History article, I had plenty of extra information that never made it into the article. I thought the information might be useful for future articles, and some of that information dealt with the Everything Bagel.

Nosowitz wrote that the person who may have coined the term "everything bagel" was David Gussin. "By his own and most other accounts, that person was David Gussin. Around 1979 or 1980, he says, he was a teenager working at Charlie’s Bagels in the Howard Beach neighborhood of Queens, New York." Gussin's work included "...cleaning the oven, where excess bagel toppings accumulated when they fell off." And Gussin once said, “One day instead of throwing them out like I usually did, I gave them to Charlie and said, ‘Hey, make a bagel with these, we’ll call it the everything bagel.” Nosowitz then noted, "Soon, a shop across the street started selling their own everything bagels, and word slowly spread."

Gussin's claim as the inventor of the Everything Bagel was highlighted in an article in the New Yorker, March 10, 2008. However, this article stated, "Within a year, Gussin said, “the everything bagel was everywhere.” This contradicts the claim by Nosowitz that the Everything Bagel slowly spread. However, if Gussin is to be believed, then where is the evidence of the Everything Bagel spreading so far within a year of his alleged invention? It doesn't seem to exist.

In the Atlas Obscura article, Nosowitz stated, "The first mention I can find of the everything bagel is in a New York Times food column from 1988, and at that time the concept was new or niche or local enough that the writer felt it necessary to place “everything bagel” in quotes and define it." The New York Times, August 3, 1988, mentioned the recent opening of the Bagel Baron in Manhattan, and stated they sold an Everything Bagel. "The 'everything bagel' is dusted with salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, garlic and onion."

Why wouldn't the Everything Bagel have been mentioned previously if it were invented around 1979-1980, especially as Gussin claimed that it was soon everywhere within a year of its creation? Such a new offering would have been ripe for presenting in a bagel bakery advertisement. During my prior research, I found plenty of ads from bakeries and delis touting their new styles and flavors of bagels. It makes little sense that the first mention of the everything bagel in a newspaper would be 8 or 9 years after its invention.

However, there actually were newspaper mentions of the Everything Bagel prior to 1998, though they still don't provide support to Gussin's claims.

The above advertisement and coupon was from the Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghampton, NY), December 7, 1984. It mentions that the Everything Bagel is "new," topped with sesame, poppy, onion, garlic and salt. None of their prior advertisements mentioned this type of bagel. This was the earliest reference that I have found, four years before 1998, though it is possible older references may exist as well.

I next found a reference from an advertisement for a New Jersey bagel spot in The Record (Hackensack, NJ), April 13, 1986. This indicates that the Everything Bagel had already spread past New York, so no longer was just a local item. This ad though doesn't explain what was on their Everything Bagel.

The next mention was in The Long Island News & the Owl, June 23, 1988, which published an ad for The Bagel Boys, listing an Everything Bagel. Again, there is no description of the toppings in this bagel.

The Herald News (NJ), August 3, 1988, printed a review of a store, Wanna Bagel, which also sold an Everything Bagel, with 5 toppings, though they were mentioned. Again, we see these bagels being sold outside of New York.

And though the following references occur after the article in the New York Times, August 3, 1988, they are relevant to the issue at hand. The Baltimore Sun, October 9, 1988, published an article and review about "bagels and....," a bagel shop located in Annapolis. They sold an Everything Bagel, noting it is  "full of seeds and no salt." Obviously the idea of this bagel has continued to spread, to Maryland, though it's curious that there isn't any salt on it.

And it continued to spread, all the way to Florida. The Tampa Tribune, June 16, 1989 wrote about a Clearwater bagel bakery, the New York Bagel Boys, which sold an Everything Bagels with dried onion, garlic, sesame and poppy seed. Again, no salt was listed as an ingredient. And the Green-Bay Press Gazette (Wisconsin), March 27, 1991, mentioned a local bagel shop making an Everything Bagel topped with poppy, caraway, and sesame seeds, onion and garlic.

So, the first newspaper reference to the Everything Bagel is actually at least from 1984, and during the 1980s, this bagel spread to places including New Jersey, Maryland, and Florida. Without any supporting evidence, I remain skeptical of David Gussin's claim that he coined the term "everything bagel." And I also remain skeptical of the other claimants to its creation as they too lack evidence supporting their claims. We may never know who invented this bagel and coined its name.

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