My simple breakfast—poppy seed bagel, slathered in cream cheese—stirred up a lovely memory this morning.
It was about forty years ago this month that (at the tender age of 17) I ate my very first bagel: also a poppy seed, covered in cream cheese.
They didn’t have bagels, you see, in the small town where I grew up. So my first taste in 1975 turned into a rite of passage of sorts. As a college freshman, I was stretching my palate a bit…and sampling foods my parents had never served me.
Not that a bagel qualifies as exotic cuisine in anybody’s book. (‘It’s like a doughnut, dipped in concrete,’ is the description I remember hearing from a friend at the time.)
And no doubt, this fact helped to imprint the memory: When I enjoyed my first bagel, I was on a date of sorts with the fair young lass who’d later become my wife. After studying at SLU’s Pius XII Library until closing time, we’d trekked across the street to the student-run snackery in the basement of a hotel-turned-dorm then known as Lewis Hall. I don’t remember whether I paid for Gerri’s bagel, too. But I do remember being grateful that she had simple tastes and didn’t seem offended (or put off) by my meager means or the notion of an impromptu date.
So I suppose all that helps to explain why poppy seed bagels have become a sort of soul food in my life. They never fail to trigger a surge of affection for those happy days at SLU, and more particularly, for the relationship that has sustained and blessed me in countless ways over the four decades since.
Like the Israelites gathering their manna in the desert, I find that I am profoundly nourished by bagels. For in them, I have discovered a personal proof of God’s faithfulness. Bagels move me to pray in a way reminiscent of the prayer we use at the offertory of each Mass…
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,
For through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you:
Fruit of the earth and work of human hands.
It will become for us the bread of life.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.