The True History of the “Bialy”
Long before New York City and her delis existed; in fact, many centuries before the Exodus from Egypt and Moses’s descent from the summit of Sinai, Bard St. Clair, a hard working poet and semi-retired master gourmet chef whose notoriety had swelled due to his recent career-capping invention of the popularly acclaimed haggis and turnip stew, was troubled with the gnawing frustration of facing yet another morning of raw salmon for breakfast.
His long-suffering but culinarily astute wife, Laureth, had exhausted her variations on groats and salmon roe and she also agreed that inspiration from the Muse of Repast was required were civilization to advance. You see, even then, back in the mists of time, the Scots knew that breaking the fast each morning was the most important meal of the day. Spurred with desire to serve the world, Laureth and Bard retreated to the kitchen within the ancient runes they called home and set to work charged with the task of redeeming the breaking of the fast.
Now, in those days the Great Isle was the center of the world and while England had yet to crawl out from under her slimy slab, the noble highlanders, ancestors of modern day Scots, represented the pinnacle of humanity. People from ‘round the world come to pay tribute to their capacity for joy and delight, wisdom and generosity but most of all, foreigners come to eat ! for nowhere in the world was the food as inspired as in Scotland. And there nestled amidst the crags and lichen strewn, sea tossed bouldered shoreline, Bard and Laureth eatery was the place to eat. There you experienced, in addition to world-famous Scottish cold smoked lox, sundry fermented vegetables with spices brought from the East; rice noodles from the South East, curries from ancient India, and Cacao laced, nutmeg strewn desserts made from milled wheat berries and after dinner drinks featuring world famous Scotch single malt drinks laced with Kava kava from Tonga or ginger from the southern isles. It was at this eatery that the extended dinner party was invented with festivities meandering well on towards dawn fueled by snuff from South American coca leaves and snacks of iowaska from the Great River. Finally, no one left this eddy of culture without cleansing the lungs with smoke from rolled tobacco leaves raised on that other magical isle across the great waters, Cuba. Indeed, travelers seldom staggered out into the gull swirling Scottish dawn light not feeling happy top be a member of the developing human race. Life was quite good atop there atop the Great Isle for all who came to partake.
But Bard and Laureth were troubled and sensed the weight of their challenge. Civilization itself requires of its champions periodic heroism and so, fired with the desire to save the world, Laureth rolled some oats. Not bad. But maybe a bit of honey and pine nuts… hmmm.. Nice but not sufficient. Bard honeyed the crab apples and baked them with seaweed – also good, albeit unconventional combos. Laureth chopped opinion and garlic and sauted them before steaming this mixture inside a ripe tomato – tantalizingly closer …..but still not enough to allow that culinary paradigm shift which advancing civilization requires.
Through the day they toiled one creation after another each item itself amazing and serving as flash points for what the world would someday appreciate as Italian, Mexican, French and Middle Eastern cuisine. They created and sampled but found wanting cream sauces, chilis, curries, souflees, gumbos, chowders – nothing was adequate.
Then, at the nadir of their effort, when all hope seems lost, history tells us it was close to 3 in the morning, the weary couple were startled by the drone and chanter of heaven’s music, the glorious bagpipes. Dropping their ladles and wiping their chafed hands on their sheep skin aprons, Bard and Laureth ducked out the entrance to their rune and looked up to see the heavens part and MacGod, rí ruirech – king of overkings, smiling down on them.
Gulls ceased their screeching, the tides reined in their waves, the wind quieted in anticipation and all was still upon the earth when He spoke.
“My most culinarily devout and clair-tasting servants,
I have admired your perseverance in aspiring to bring heaven to earth
through really good food and I know that you are seeking the next great
food to assist humanity to move forward in love. I have watched through
the clouds your struggle and I see that even you both representing the pinnacle
of Scottish culture and therefore of humanity itself, even you need some help
with this one. So here, catch! This is it, and it shall be called the BAGEL!”
(Note: this was the first time MacGod spoke to a woman since Eve was chastised
in Eden an event which Laureth took in stride but appreciated it, nonetheless as
an indication that at least in Scotland, husband and wife are both equal in the
eyes of MacGod)
And with a cacophony of piping, chanter and drone, MacGod tossed out a glistening celestial orb which, when it landed softly and fragrantly in the generous folds of Laureth’s apron became the Emaculate Bagel, the progenitor of all bagels to come, the only One descended directly from above; sent to save humanity.
Unfortunately, history does not record for posterity whether this first Emmaculate Bagel was plain, pumpernickel, onion, poppyseed or cinnamon raisin. Millenia later, there was a particularly ugly uprising in Boston triggered by the claim that the Emaculate Bagel was, after all, cinnamon raisin but today no one takes that theory seriously – for obvious reasons.
But the other events of fateful day by the kelp-strewn beaches of Scotland at the stoop of the Rune of Bard and Laueth, when the wind kicked back up to a howl, the waves crashed again upon the faithful shore and the gulls wheeled in glee above the bewildered couple, are indeed well recorded in the
St. Clair family lore and what happened is this.
Laureth took the doughy bagel into the kitchen, sniffed and massaged it and had her doubts. Needed some astrality – roasting? Baking? Boiling? Not a clear choice. Can’t screw this up. Remembering the impetuosity of Eve, Laureth set the Emaculate Bagel down on the rock slab counter and went to check on her steaming kelp soup while she weighed “to cook or not to cook”. At that very moment, in strode Bard thinking , “Wow, what a way to start the day! Got to get some of those bagpipes!” (He was so enthralled by bagpipes which he had listened to enraptured with eyes closed and heart soaring that he missed entirely the act of divine intervention which we now nominate as the Original Bagel toss. But he was hungry after a hard night of work and, inspired by the bagpipes, he grabbed the Emaculate bagel without recognizing it as the MacGod-given celestial orb and absent mindedly tossed it in the air. The symmetry appealed to his esthetic but he disapproved of it’s donut-like shape (he had invented and rejected the donut as inadequate sometime near midnight earlier in the night’s effort). So, rather than knead it back to one ball, feeling inspired, he sealed one end of the hole leaving a “floor” in the donut shape. Then, smelling some roasting onions and garlic, he sprinkled those in liberally and popped the desecrated and modified Emaculate Bagel into the wood fired oven for approximately 10 minutes at maybe 450 degrees.
The rest, as we all know, is history! Rocky for sure; too much national and religious persecution and too many “religious” wars – agreed. We can only wonder how much more peace and prosperity would have resulted had Bard been paying attention and kept his eyes open to witness the Original Bagel Toss. We are haunted to imagine how much more brotherly love and compassion would be in the world today had he not meddled in the kitchen “improving” the Emaculate Bagel. But, Bard did what he did and because of what he did, the Bialeth was conceived and brought forth that fateful morn far out upon the windswept highlands on Scotia. And because he did what he did, scholars, philosophers and men of MacGod have argued ever after its merits.
Among certain of MacGod’s children however, there is no argument; there is no discussion. For the men and women and children of these Clans, brothers and sisters with a fine palate, can not imagine life without the Bialeth. These sensitive folk reckon it a reasonable trade off and even given humanity’s suffering after the Toss (misinterpreted in come cultures as the “Fall”). For these culinarily advanced Clans, the choice is clear: world peace according to MacGod’s Emaculate Bagel plan vs. being able to enjoy a perfect homemade Scottish Bialeth (now popularly know as a “bialy”) with cold-smoked Scottish lox, red onions and tomatoes along side a cup of Joe while enjoying the Sunday New York Times.
What would your choose?
Civilization, after all, depends upon your decision!
The St. Clair Bialeth Recipe
Passed down through the St. Clair clan (which became the Sinclair Clan) and which ultimately found safe haven and is guarded by Bradford son of Sinclair, who now freely before MacGod, offers this family treasure to Bobby Frank and his family in perpetuity.
1 ¼ cups fire warmed water (105 -115 degree)
Envelop active dry yeast (1.4 ounce or scant tablespoon yeast; check the expiration date to make sure the yeast is fresh)
¼ cup iunsifted gluten flour
2 ¾ cups unsifted all –purpose white flour plus about ¾ cup for work surfaces
1.5 teaspoons salt
½ a small onion or /2 inch slice medium onion
For garlic topping substitute 1 teaspoon poppyseeds plus 1 clove garlic.
Dated this day the year of our MacLord December 25th, 2735 PBT .