by David Ignatow
I stopped to pick up the bagel
rolling away in the wind,
annoyed with myself
for having dropped it
as if it were a portent.
Faster and faster it rolled,
with me running after it
bent low, gritting my teeth,
and I found myself doubled over
and rolling down the street
head over heels, one complete
after another like a bagel
and strangely happy with myself.
Source: "Against the Evidence: Selected Poems 1934-1994," Wesleyan University Press
When was the last time you felt unabashedly silly? When did you run down the street, skipping, or scream on a roller coaster, or trip and fall in a public place? Most of the time we're buttoned up, trying to do everything we can to remain poised.
The poem "The Bagel," by David Ignatow, removes us from formality a bit to those rare moments when you realize you're in the midst of a potentially embarrassing moment but choose to laugh instead of scurry away, ashamed.
I've learned many lessons as a home cook, and one of them is that it's OK not to make everything. And not just OK, it's probably preferable. There are some foods better left to the professionals, like croissants, for instance. Now, this doesn't mean you shouldn't try to make English muffins or sushi at home. You should, because then you'll learn your limits, what you care about most, and when to leave it to the experts. You might find yourself incredibly adept at candymaking, or you might decide to enjoy your next scone at your favorite bakery.
I thought it would be really fun to make sushi at home and was excited for at least a week. I spent time contemplating the ingredients I would use, watching videos that taught me how to make the rice properly, and whisking my own mayonnaise to spike with sriracha for a splendid spicy tuna sauce.
As it turned out, I was sadly disappointed. The only redeeming quality from the meal was the beautiful piece of tuna we bought. And the spicy sauce was pretty tasty, too. But the process of making sushi, which in one respect is not that complicated, became one long, boring series of tuna and avocado rolls. Not much variety, poorly rolled rolls, and general discontent. So I moved on.
But after reading "The Bagel," I immediately thought of blending the remaining wasabi with a fresh, in-season avocado and spreading it on a toasted sesame bagel. Simple.
I rolled with it, and found myself "strangely happy," too.
Avocado wasabi bagels
I preferred to stay on the mild side and added only 1/2 teaspoon of wasabi to my mashed avocado, so simply adjust the measurements to suit your taste.
2 sesame bagels, toasted
2 ripe avocados
1/2 to 1 teaspoon wasabi
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the bagels lengthwise with a serrated knife and toast. Mash the avocado, wasabi, lemon, salt, and pepper in a bowl until well combined. Slather on the bagel halves and serve.
• A version of this essay first appeared on EatThisPoem.com.