New York Bagels

When we got news of the bomb, I was walking toward the finish line. I was in my first year of journalism school at Boston University, and we’d all been assigned to cover Boston’s largest sporting event: the Marathon.

I heard about the bomb before everyone around me knew. My journalism school buddy was working close to the finish line when he heard the noise. He called to make sure his best friend, Tom, and I weren’t there. Then he told us he was going to run toward it.

“This is why we do journalism!” he said. Tom hung up the phone.

Later, I would chastise my friend for talking his way into a hotel room above the bomb site just to get that important picture he sold for lots of money. But in that moment, when he told us what had happened, the race was still going where we stood at Mile 23. Cowbells were still ringing, people were still running, and volunteers were still handing out water cups, shaking hands, and yelling kind words. No one on that street knew about the bomb, except me and Tom. I selfishly stood in silence for longer than I should have, absorbing the full meaning of what I’d just heard.

As a journalist, as someone who had been trained to handle exactly this, I knew I should do what my friend was doing: ask questions, get closer, find the story, help people, and be there for the big moments, the moments that would define our city forever. Instead, I turned around and told my other friends what had happened. The shock on their faces mirrored my own. On a day when I could clearly see the strength in the people around me, when watching strangers help strangers as they completed the biggest challenges of their lives made me feel warm inside, it felt like something had been ripped out of my hands.

Then, I walked away. 20 minutes after I found out about the bomb, I sent a text to my parents to tell them I was okay. The phone lines went down immediately after my message went through. When I got home, I watched the news. I watched Twitter boil and boil and boil. I looked at the pictures posted by my journalist friends, many of whom had headed directly toward the blasts.

But I never went downtown. Not that day, nor that week, nor for the rest of the month. In fact, I never published anything about the bombings at all. My class assignment, about military veterans running the race, would be deemed “incomplete” by my professor because I barely mentioned the bombings. I had no quotes, no personal details. I hadn’t seen it, I said, accepting the incomplete in a way that made me feel desperately empty-handed again.

In journalism school, they told us that we’d know what kind of journalist we were destined to be when something like this happened: either we’d run toward it, or we’d run away, and then we’d know. I didn’t expect such a clear delineation to be drawn so early in my career, but there we were. My friend, the one who found himself perched in that hotel window just minutes after the bombing, all to get that one perfect picture, was clearly going to be the type who ran toward it. In that moment, he branded himself as someone who could go anywhere, do anything, to get the story.

I, on the other hand, proved in that moment of truth to be the kind of journalist who ran away, far away, as far as I could get. I felt strongly ashamed of this in the months following the bombing. Rather than complete my assignment, I’d burrowed inside my own head. After leaving the race, I remember curling up under a blanket and eating a bagel. Despite the urging of my friends (“This is the kind of moment that can make or break your career, and it’s in your backyard!”), I didn’t move. I felt obstinate about this decision, but also wrong. I wondered, ­and I sometimes still wonder, ­what that visceral, unchangeable reaction says about me.

When it came time to get a job after graduation, I avoided the often-common strategy of moving to Manhattan to start climbing the media career ladder. While you can certainly be a successful reporter from many locations, I knew myself well enough to know that if I wanted to “make it” in journalism, my “run away from intense danger” instinct ruled out foreign reporting or even working as a daily reporter. Instead, I’d need to get a newsroom management job. Most of those jobs were in New York City.

That was 5 years ago, and at the time I figured that my New York avoidance was temporary. I’d maybe, eventually, probably, someday move there. 2 years ago, I still entertained the possibility. But after leaving Upworthy a few months ago in search of a more grounded, joy-filled routine, I finally let go of that requirement. I discarded the idea that I needed to be a certain “type” of journalist to be successful. And when I made that decision, I was shocked to find that I was suddenly carrying a much lighter load. The shame of walking away from the bomb tumbled from my shoulders. 4 years later, I could finally write about it.

Oh — and why bagels? Because for years, as I considered what it might be like to move to New York City, my dream life always included bagels. Purchasing a bag of chewy, soft, tasty New York bagels is one of the greatest joys in life, for me. When I finally put my Manhattan dreams to bed, I realized that I’d need to bring some parts of New York into my Boston home. Hence, finally teaching myself to make these bagels, which my Baltimore-based friend Rebecca has been encouraging me to do for years.

New York-Style Bagels

Or, “Bagels for Journalists Who Run from Danger.”
Makes 8 bagels. H/t to Rebecca Eisenberg, my baking mentor and former coworker, for finding and teaching me how to make this awesome recipe, which is adapted from The Sophisticated Gourmet.
  • 2 t active dry yeast
  • 1.5 T white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 3.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1.5 t salt
  • Optional toppings: sea salt, minced garlic, minced onion, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, etc.

Add the yeast, sugar and water to the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook. Next, add the flour and stir. Mix those ingredients on low, allowing the dough hook to knead the bread for 10 minutes (set a timer). If the mixture looks dry, you can add a bit more water, starting with 1 T and then adding a second tablespoon if needed (this need often depends on where you live). If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can knead the dough by hand for 10-12 minutes.

Once kneaded, the dough should feel like elastic. It should look smooth. Grease a medium-sized bowl and put the dough into it, flipping it once to coat the entire thing. Cover that with a damp dish towel and let it rise for about one hour. It won’t double in size, but it will look bigger. Punch the dough down and let it have another 10-15 minutes in the bowl before moving to the next step.

Put a big pot of water on the stove to boil (you’ll want the water to be at least 3 inches deep, as you’ll be boiling the bagels and you want them to fit). Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F while you’re at it.

While the water heats, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. If you have a scale, awesome. If not, eyeball it – cut the dough in half, then half those pieces, then half those pieces. Tuck each piece into a small ball, pulling the outer edges toward the middle and pinching the dough to seal it. Once all 8 pieces are balled up, flour your hand and stick a thumb through the center, gently coaxing the ball into a bagel ring shape. (The Sophisticated Gourmet has awesome pictures of this process, if you’re confused!)

Put the bagel-shaped pieces of dough on a greased cookie sheet and let them settle for 10 minutes. Once the water is boiling, drop 3-4 bagels into the water (you want them all to fit in one layer, so depending on the size of your pan, this number could be more or less). Cook the bagels for 1-2 minutes on the first side, then flip them (using a slotted spoon) and cook them for 1-2 minutes on the other side. I always go with 2 minutes per side because I like chewier, New York-style bagels. If you prefer bready, soft bagels, go with approx. 1 minute per side. Once boiled, return the bagels to the greased cookie sheet. Repeat this process until all the bagels have been boiled.

If you want to add toppings to your bagels, now’s the time. You may want to brush an egg wash (1 egg, whisked, plus a splash of water) onto the top of the bagel to make sure the toppings stick. Then into the oven they go for 20 minutes, until golden brown!

Let them cool on a rack for 10 minutes, if you can. Yeah, yeah — I know. Just do your best 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s