MORE than 8 million bagels a day were eaten in the United States just last year. This translates to total industry sales of $500 million plus. Non-frozen represented 57 percent of the sales, with Lender's, Sara Lee, and other brands making up 43 percent.
And if you don't want to buy frozen bagels, you can find them at fast-food restaurants, delis, or supermarket bakery counters - or try making them yourself.
Yes, bagel consumption is booming. It's easy to forget that this is not just a modern fad. Bagels have an ethnic heritage that dates back to 1610, when the word first showed up in the Community Regulations of Kracow, Poland. Bagels, the regulations read, would be presented to any woman after she had a child.
Another story is that they were created as a present for a Polish king, a horseman, who thought the ring-shaped bagel looked like a stirrup. The word stirrup is B"ugel, of German extraction.
In the US, bagels were once considered strictly a Jewish ethnic food, with native recipes brought from Poland, Austria, and Germany by the early 1900s.
But bagelmania is pretty much universal now - with bakers making bagels for special occasions such as Christmas and St. Patrick's Day (green, of course!).
There are wide variations of flavor: blueberry, chocolate chip, raisin and honey, as well as the traditional egg, plain, pumpernickel, onion, poppy seed, rye, oat, sesame, and whole wheat.
The traditional way to eat a bagel is to split it horizontally and spread it with cream cheese and slices of lox or smoked salmon. Nowadays, they show up for lunch as sandwiches filled with crab, lobster, ham, chicken, tuna - and yes, even peanut butter and jelly.
Bagel sandwiches are perfect for the brown-bag lunch. If using frozen bagels, do not defrost them. The thawing bagel will refrigerate the filling so it is cool when lunch time rolls around.
Homemade Plain Bagels 4 tablespoons oil 2 tablespoons sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup hot water 2 packages dry yeast 1 egg 3 3/4 cups flour, sifted
Mix the oil, sugar, and salt with the hot water. When it cools to lukewarm, add the yeast to dissolve.
Beat the egg until frothy. Add it to the liquid, then mix in the flour. Knead the dough and shape into doughnuts.
Cover and set to rise on a floured board. When the bagels begin to swell, drop them one at a time into briskly boiling water, and cook until they rise to the top and are light.
Place on baking sheets and bake in a 400-degree F. oven about 15 minutes, or until crisp and golden.
Makes about 30 bagels.
Russian Bagels 4 frozen presliced bagels (poppy seed, egg, or pumpernickel) 1/4 cup Russian dressing 4 slices tomato 4 slices Muenster cheese 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
Thaw, toast, or heat bagels. Spread cut sides with dressing. Place tomato and cheese slices on bottom halves. Top with bean sprouts. Cover with top halves of bagels.
Deviled Ham Bagel 1 6-ounce canned ham spread 1 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened 1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish 1/2 teaspoon prepared hot mustard 1/3 cup finely chopped celery Pineapple rings (garnish), optional
Mix until smooth all ingredients except pineapple rings. Spread on 2 bagel halves. Garnish with pineapple rings. Top with remaining bagel halves. Makes 2.
Teriyaki Bagel 1 tablespoon butter or margarine 2 onion or garlic bagels, split 1 tablespoon butter or margarine 3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce 4 thin slices roast beef or pork Sesame seeds, toasted Chopped scallions (optional)
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in skillet. Add 2 bagels, split, cut-side down. Brown for 1 minute. Remove.
Add 1 tablespoon butter and 3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce to the skillet. Add the slices of roast beef or pork. Heat slightly. Divide between two bagel halves. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds and chopped scallions. Add bagel tops. Makes 2.
Bagel sandwiches Peanut Butter and Jelly Bagel
Spread plain bagel cut in half with whipped cream cheese. Top with peanut butter and jelly or jam.
Spread egg bagel with whipped cream cheese. Top with shredded carrot, chopped nuts, raisins, and honey.
Spread onion bagel with whipped cream cheese. Top with avocado slices, tomato slices, and black olive slices.
Spread plain or whole wheat bagel with whipped cream cheese. Top with finely chopped radishes, celery, carrots, and salad dressing.
Fish Fillet Bagel Sandwich
Spread plain or onion bagel with whipped cream cheese. Top with a fried fish fillet and tartar sauce.
Eggs Benedict Bagel
Spread egg bagel with whipped cream cheese with chives or onion. Top with saut'eed mushroom slices, poached egg, and hollandaise sauce.
Down East Bagel
Spread plain, onion, or garlic bagel with whipped cream cheese. Top with sardines, tomato slice, and cucumber slices.
Smoked Salmon-Dill Bagel
Slice plain or onion bagel in half. Spread bottom half with whipped cream cheese. Top with diced smoked salmon and sprinkle with dillweed.