While I was visiting family on the East Coast, my sister took me to a bagel shop knowing that the treats in this classic tiny New York City fixture would soon be throwing a party for my mouth (to quote the great Mel Brooks). When I stepped inside the deli it was clear that I was witnessing a phenomenon I had never encountered before. People weren’t eating traditional bagels—those rings of hockey-puck-shaped dough that have been boiled and then baked to a perfect brownish sheen. Instead they were eating something called a flagel, also known as a Shmagel. Shmagel/flagel, whatever. They looked delicious.
So, what are they? Well, they are bagels that have been shmooshed (in Yiddish you would never say something as boring as “flattened”) into the size of 45 rpm records before being baked. One flagel or shmagel (a combination of the words either flattened and bagel or smashed and bagel) might not always fill up your stomach, but it pretty much fills up your plate.
Techniques for tackling the treat seemed to differ throughout the restaurant. Some diners spread the cream cheese over the top; others tried to slice the flagel the normal way, a risky maneuver given that flagels are half the height and twice the diameter of bagels. Some people were also putting the belly lox on top, right over the onions or poppy seeds, or any of the 22 varieties.
By the way, belly lox is not smoked salmon, it’s the fish steeped in brine. For many years I missed this salty delicacy so much I had it shipped to Indianapolis from the Big Apple at great expense. I didn’t want my wife to know how much I had spent, so I asked that the fish be wrapped in plain, unmarked brown paper. When it arrived Mary Ellen figured it was naughty pictures. That got me in a lot less trouble.
But back to flagels . . .
I checked my smart phone in the restaurant for more info, and as with everything, there were websites dedicated to people who want nothing more than to shmear the good name of bagel purveyors. One woman complained: “Flagels were invented twenty years ago, and I may have gotten one of those originals this morning.”
Here’s another comment:
“I really liked them. Do they have fewer calories than the regular bagels?”
Yes, and a pound of matzo weighs less than a pound of corned beef.
When I got back to my sister’s home after breakfast, I returned to the Internet to further educate myself about flagels. Where were they invented? Who served them first? And how had I missed this earth-baking sensation prior to last week?
One site warned of the side effects of digesting this product, including headache, stomach cramps and irritability. I grew up in a home where we all felt this way after every meal. Oops, sorry! I was looking at a website that came up about the antibiotic Flagyl, not flagels.
I stuffed a dozen flagels in my carry-on bag and left for the airport to return to Indy. As popular as these are back in NYC, I am convinced flagels could also become a huge money-maker here in the Midwest. I’m not smart enough to know out how to market them, but I bet some Einstein will figure It out.
Dick Wolfsie appears weekdays on television sharing his humor, stories and video essays. His column appears weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at Wolfsie@aol.com.