20 January 2011

A Bagel Story

We had bagels this morning, but not just any bagels.  No, these bagels come with a story, which I hope you will be patient with as I indulge in a little nostalgia.

In the mid-1980's, I was a pledge at a social sorority at Oklahoma State University.  Every Monday evening, while the members of the sorority had their chapter meeting, the pledges of all the houses participated in an institution known as "Coke Date."  All the pledges  in my house - and we were dressed in church clothes - lined up shortest to tallest, meaning that I was first in line.  Then the pledges from a fraternity (it rotated week by week) would be lined up the same way, shortest to tallest, at our front door.  We paired off, me with the first (shortest) boy in line, and so on.  I have no idea what happened if there were more girls than boys or vice versa.  That problem fell to the tall ones.  Then we would walk, two by two, on a Coke Date, to keep ourselves occupied while our elders took care of the important business of the house.

Many, many times, our Coke Date was a trip to a bagel place on the main drag in Stillwater.  At that time, bagels were not common fare in Oklahoma.  I cannot remember ever having one until the Coke Dates.  Monday at this bagel place was 2 for 1 night, a promotion ploy I imagine that was concocted with the Coke Dates in mind.  Anyway, we would line up, and proceed conveyer-line style through the place, getting a foil-wrapped bagel shoved at us, and then on to the Dr. Pepper station.  (Yes, it's called Coke Date, but Dr. Pepper reigned.)

Monday night, therefore, would find us, in a strict, formulaic ritual, partnered with a total stranger of the opposite sex, who paired well according to height,  munching our bagels, sipping our DP's, and being with Everyone at this bagel joint, having a memorable time of it.  It was fun, and I met some very nice, short, young men during that time, but it also seems so quaint, even foreign to me now.  Really, what a bizarre thing it was!

The bagels, though, were fantastic.  Remember, I had never had one before.  These were just your basic white (who at that time had even heard of an Everything Bagel?), with cream cheese and very thin slices of ham sandwiched in the middle.  They were wrapped in foil and kept warm, and the combination of the chewy bread, the melty, messy cheese, and the salty ham was just unforgettable.  And I've never forgotten, though I don't think I can remember one boy who provided me with these beauties.

When I make bagels for breakfast, I like to replicate my college treat and remember that very exciting, world-expanding, eye-opening period of my life.

Stillwater Bagels

1. For each bagel, spread both halves with cream cheese.  I like to use Neufchatel, as it's lower in fat.  And nowadays, I use whole wheat bagels.

2. Place 3 or so slices of thin, deli ham on one half and top with the other half.

3. Wrap in foil, and put in a 300 degree oven for about 10 minutes.

4. Have lots of napkins handy, unwrap, and enjoy!

You could get the bagels assembled the night before, wrap them and refrigerate, although assembly is very quick the morning of.  But if you're pressed for time, it works fine.  Then it's only a 10-minute breakfast.

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