There isn’t a day when a specific food is not celebrated. National Bagel Day arrived earlier than expected this year thanks to Thomas’ Bagels, the largest producer of grocery store bagels in the U.S.

Of course, Thomas’ is synonymous with English Muffins.

After years of watching National Bagel Day share the spotlight with National Pizza Day, the company ran a poll in which hundreds of bagel lovers across the country voted in favor of changing the date and giving the iconic breakfast staple its own day of appreciation. Now, there wasn’t a competition on Jan. 15, the new day for the bagel celebration. After all, bagels date to 1610. Pizza, as we know it, is younger, invented in 1889.

According to Thomas’:

In Hartford, the top five flavors of grocery store bagels include plain, cinnamon raisin, everything, onion and blueberry. The 10 most popular bagel toppings nationwide are cream cheese, butter, flavored cream cheese, cheese, jelly/jam, eggs, lunch meat, margarine, peanut butter or other nut butter and bacon.

Thomas’ is the leading brand of packaged grocery store bagels in the U.S., with more than 150 million bagels sold in 2018.

The average person eats more than 11 bagels per year. (I guess I am way above average; remember: I am originally from Brooklyn, N.Y.)

New Haven has a strong tie to bagels, too. Lender’s, established in 1927, introduced frozen and packaged bagels and was the world’s largest bagel maker. It is said that they transformed the bread traditionally eaten by Jewish people into a cross-culturally enjoyed sandwich bread substitution. The Oxford Companion to Food says, “the bagel is a Jewish bread, apparently originating in South Germany, migrating to Poland and then to North America, where it has become the most famous and archetypal Jewish food. Its name derives from Yiddish beygel which stems from the German dialect word beugel, meaning ring or bracelet.” Why is there a hole in the middle? One theory: Vendors threaded the hole-shaped bread onto dowels and hawked them on street corners.

All bagels are not created equal, I say. There is still something about New York bagels baked in the mom and pop bagel bakeries that make them my favorite. There is the myth, the New York City water used in preparation makes the difference. A “real” New York-style bagel is poached in boiling water before being baked. Growing up in Brooklyn, when I had the urge for a bagel, lox (smoked salmon) and cream cheese, my parents went to the bagel bakery (frozen and packaged bagels and bagel chains didn’t exist back then, at least, not in Brooklyn) to buy a dozen, making sure my pumpernickel was included. I liked a slice of ripe tomato on mine, dad had to have a big slice of red onion on his, and he still does. A bagel, lox and cream cheese is a go-to comfort food for me, breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Historian Maria Balinska traces the bagel’s history in “The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread” (2009, Yale University Press), weaving a rich, quirky, and evocative history of East European Jewry and the unassuming ring-shaped roll the world has taken to its heart.

I must agree with this excerpt from “The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home” by Nick Zukin and Michael Zusman (2013, Andrews McMeel, $27.99): “Seemingly any round-shaped bread that holds a sandwich filling suffices as a ‘bagel’ these days.” A few recipes for bagels and another one of my favorites, bialys, are provided.

After reading the complexity of the process, I will continue to purchase bagels at the bagel bakery. In a bind, I will purchase packaged bagels. New Yorkers argue only fresh bagels are “real” bagels.

Your imagination is the limit on your bagel sandwich fillings. A “schmear”, the Yiddish word for grease, was originally slang for a bribe, as in greasing someone’s palm, Zurkin and Zusman write. Today, a schmear in the bagel arena, is anything that can be spread, most often cream cheese, on a bagel.

Celebrate the bagel with these recipes from Thomas’.

Toast bagel and set aside. Cook four pieces of bacon to desired crispness and let cool. Scramble eggs and place on one side of bagel.

Add black truffle and cheese and top with bacon.

Spray a 9- by 13-inch dish with nonstick spray. Slice the bagels into small chunks and scatter on the bottom of the pan.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat, and add the brown sugar. Stir until the butter and sugar are bubbling—continue to stir and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the apples and continue to stir until apples are well-coated with the caramel mixture. Cook and stir for an additional 2 minutes. Spoon the apples on top of the bagel pieces in the pan. Scrape the sugary juices evenly on top.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, sugar, vanilla and salt until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the bagel/apple mixture in the pan. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap, and place another pan on top to submerge the bagels in the liquid. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make sure there is a rack in the middle and another rack on the bottom of the oven. Place a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil on the bottom rack to catch any potential drips. Remove the plastic wrap, cover the bread pudding with foil, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Let cool for at least a few minutes before servings. Serve slices warm with a drizzle of caramel sauce. Serves 8.

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Mohegan Sun’s Sun Wine & Food Fest, Jan. 24-27. Celebrity-chef appearances, tastings of fine wines, bourbons and beers and cuisine from a variety of regional restaurants. On Jan. 24, “Boston Brews and Bites,” features top Boston chefs teamed up with Boston pro athletes. They’ll cook their favorite tailgate dishes. Don’t miss Saturday’s Grand Tasting, with 1,000 varieties of wine, beer and spirits and Saturday night’s Celebrity Chef Dine Around, with more than 20 top chefs, including Bobby Flay, Todd English, Alex Guarnaschelli, Marcus Samuelsson and Rocco DiSpirito. For schedule of events and prices, visit sunwinefest.com.

Connecticut Media Group