Forget about the rivalry between the New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadians, or between the Cortland apple and the McIntosh apple, or between the Met orchestra and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. All these do not matter! What really matters is the rivalry between New York bagels and Montreal Bagels. Now, that is a serious thing to argue about! You did not know Montreal had bagels? We may be Canadians, Eh! but we have bagels too! And if you’ve visited other iconic shops like The Halal Guys in Montreal – it’s time to treat yourself to dessert in the form of a delicious Montreal space bagel.
These bagels are symbolic. To start with, Montreal bagels have big holes. Not ordinary holes but holes with meaning. You see, we like big holes in Montreal: be it the city finances, or the Big O (the O shaped Olympic stadium that looks like the big hole of a urinal), or the island of Montreal, itself a hole in the St-Lawrence river, or the pot holes we have in our streets all year long, holes matter here. Good bagel holes have got to be big too! Then of course, there is the matter of the chewy dough. We have plenty of things to chew on: the corruption in the construction industry; the highest income tax in all the Americas; the Plan Nord that is selling our wood away; and of course, the winter that lasts forever. No wonder our national animal is the beaver! Chew is what we do! But then of course Montreal bagels are sweeter, boiled in honey-sweetened water and always cooked in wood-fired ovens. And there are plenty of things we are sweet on: the green spaces in the city; the majestic beauty of the St Lawrence river; bilingualism and the exhilaration it brings to some of us; the café-terrasse culture; the safety of the streets; the walkability of this city; the friendliness of people, and of course, the McIntosh apple, the Canadians and the MSO!
Montreal bagel aficionados know their bagels and the true amateurs are divided between two groups of faithful bagel eaters: Those who prefer the Fairmount Street Bagels and those who prefer the St-Viateur Street Bagels. All others are pale copies and do not measure up in quality. Some enlightened New Yorkers have come to their senses and affirm a preference for Montreal Bagels. Some even developed an expertise in these matters. For instance, my New York friend Bambi prefers the St-Viateur version while my New York friend Kate prefers the Fairmount version. Be they from Fairmount or from St Viateur, nothing beats fresh bagels bought in the middle of the night, after a party or a late movie, from a tiny shop with a roaring fire oven, when the stomach reminds the mind that food is needed, or when the mind reminds the stomach that food is wanted. Like a proud Montrealer, I truly prefer Montreal Bagels, complete with big holes, piping hot, right out of the wood oven, covered with roasted Sesame Seeds, chewy and sweet.