You may not have heard about the latest and hottest food crazes, and you may be better off.
There’s a place in Brooklyn called The Bagel Store, where baker Scot Rossillo has been making rainbow bagels as a novelty item for 20 years. Business Insider recently produced a video about them, which went viral and was viewed 65 million times. As a result, demand became so intense that Rossillo had to close up shop for ten days to reorganize his operation.
The other fad is the next-generation milkshake, pioneered by another New York eatery called The Black Tap. The idea is simple: a regular milkshake is piled high with extras such as cotton candy, M&Ms, caramel apples and slices of cake. At The Black Tap, as at The Bagel Store, customers are waiting in line for up to two hours before being served.
Is the candy cane bagel part of a conspiracy to undermine Jewish culinary culture, the inevitable result of a process that began with the cinnamon raisin bagel? Maybe not, since the candy cane effect seems to be a visual one, achieved primarily through food coloring. In every other respect, Rossillo’s products are traditional. And despite his newfound popularity, he’s still baking the same number of bagels each day. “Money doesn’t move me,” he was recently quoted as saying. “I refuse to cheapen my product.”
So what’s wrong with eating a cinnamon raisin bagel? It doesn’t really taste like a bagel. It’s more like a variety of designer muffin—what you might be served at a trendy bed and breakfast, where the rooms have frilly bedspreads and 16 pillows on each bed. Here’s the purist point of view: if you want to eat a bagel, eat a bagel; otherwise, buy a muffin.
Yes, there’s a reactionary strain in the purist viewpoint. But remember that Rossillo was selling candy cane bagels long before food culture had the potential to go viral. If it were possible to remove the smart phones from the hands of the lemmings lined up at his store, and to remove the Internet completely from their lives, that line would disappear. “It’s like eating cake for breakfast,” exclaims a woman in the Business Insider video, as she tucks into a rainbow bagel schmeared with funfetti (cream cheese infused with cake mix and sprinkles).
Let them eat cake, but at least let it be cake.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014); his first novel, Friend of the Devil, is forthcoming from Black Opal Books in 2016. For more information, go to amazon.com