For, by my count, the third time in the past year, bagels have found themselves in hot water. Metaphorically hot water, that is—separate from the boiling water necessary to cook them. First, everyone freaked out about Cynthia Nixon’s bagel order when Nixon was running for governor of New York as a bagel libertarian. Then, we fought the great bagel emoji wars. And now? Pandemonium over the notion of slicing bagels like bread.
Not slicing bagels in half, mind you. Twitter user Alek Krautmann is responsible for lighting this particular dumpster fire. A few days ago, he posted a photo picturing two boxes of bagels sliced vertically, like a loaf of bread, calling it a St. Louis secret.
Sides were drawn quickly. Some declared the slicing a travesty, a culinary affront, “anti-Semitism.” Others found it innovative and, well, a pretty sensible method of portion control. As of Wednesday afternoon, the entire city of St. Louis was trending.
One of my favorite responses came from the Twitter account Bagel Crimes, which stopped short of calling the slicing a war crime only because this week the owners of Einstein Bros. Bagels “were exposed for literal war crimes.”
Those in favor of extreme bagel-slicing have put forth their best arguments. Some have trouble choosing between varieties of bagels, so this would allow them to enjoy more than one during a single breakfast—no more pitting everything against cinnamon raisin. Also, slicing might enable some people to eat bagels without feeling like they have to finish them if they’re trying to eat healthier (or trying not fall asleep after breakfast)—bagels are, after all, quite a lot of bread in the morning. Then there’s a geometry-based case for slicing: It increases the surface area of the bagel, allowing for more toppings. It also apparently works really well with more dessert-y types of bagels.
I take no pleasure in reporting that this is all wrong. A bagel’s shape is its defining quality. Biting into a mass of doughy bread is one of the chief pleasures of eating a bagel, or really anything. Slicing one up into croutons strips away everything that makes a bagel a bagel. If what you want is sliced bread, buy sliced bread. It’s fine to take half a bagel, pie chart–style, or even a quarter, but to cut it up like this is mutilation. BuzzFeed reported that St. Louis–area Paneras are equipped with special automatic bread slicers for this purpose. Extra machinery seems like an awful lot of trouble to enable this treason—why make a food in one distinctive shape only to dismantle it? It goes against nature. And that’s true any way you slice it. Except don’t slice it.