Brick Lane Beigels Are A Very Important Part Of My Personal Iconography


I work on Brick Lane, directly across the street from Brick Lane Beigel. For the first month that I worked across the street from Brick Lane Beigel, I decided to ignore Brick Lane Beigel. I just didn't have time for it, at that point in my life, like three weeks ago or whatever. I had enough going on, what with settling into a new job and having it be my birthday and having to go to the eye hospital one time and all. Plus, I used to live in New York City, and I'm really loyal to New York City bagels, and I've already been through the experience of moving to another world-famous bagel city and having everyone rave about how much better the bagels are than New York bagels and then trying one and being let down. It was Montreal, and I hate Montreal bagels. They are tiny and hard, like an old person who has lived a crappy life and is sour about it. They are literally sour, sourdough bagels. 

So, I assumed that Brick Lane Beigels were probably stupid like Montreal bagels. I wouldn't expect very much of a bagel from England of all countries, though even at my most skeptical I appreciated the spelling: "beigel." I think New York City should go back to beigel too. It's so attractively reminiscent of old-timey Judaism.  

The first time I ever ate a Brick Lane Beigel I was in a bad mood and one of my co-workers called herself a "cheeky beigel-monkey" and I was like "I want to be a cheeky beigel-monkey" and then I ate a salt beef beigel standing alone on the street and, shortly after, died of happiness. That night I obsessively told every person who crossed my path that I'd eaten a salt beef beigel that day, and then I ate one every day for three days, and they stayed as good as they had the first day, which freaked me out. Things are supposed to get worse and worse with time. Why didn't anybody ever tell salt beef beigels that they need to get worse. 

They're too powerful. 

A couple weeks later, or days later, I can't remember, I ate a cream cheese beigel in the morning and then Charlotte came and got drunk with me in my empty restaurant. I didn't want to eat two beigels in one day because... I don't know, I guess it was just an arbitrary thing. They're not even that big or crazy carby or anything. It's not like eating two, like, footlong Subways in one day. That's something you definitely shouldn't want to do. Beigels, fine. 

I decided to try a tuna-sweetcorn-mayo bagel that night. It had been calling out to me all three weeks or two days or however long it was. It's kind of a gross thing to order, but I like gross food. I like tuna salad, a good soggy tunafish sandwich on whole wheat. Here's some fun UK gossip for all the North Americans out there: in England, they pronounce tuna like "chew-na," and it's really gross. Sorry, that's rude of me. I guess to be fair about things every English person I know is now allowed- no, encouraged- to tell me which thing I say is disgusting to them. Anyway, my tuna bagel sucked. Charlotte was eating a salt beef bagel next to me and I could smell it and it smelled so good and I was so sad about how stupid I was for choosing that moment, of all moments, to not order salt beef. The next day I woke up thinking about salt beef and then I kept thinking about salt beef and I got to work and sat down with my laptop and started writing emails and then was like "What am I even doing?" and went across the street and got a salt beef bagel. There was this one really special strand of particularly fatty, stringy salt beef on that particular salt beef bagel. That was probably, like, seven salt beef bagels ago. The strand of beef fell out of the bagel and it was stuck inside the paper bag and I was sitting at a table with a bunch of co-workers and I felt self-conscious to pull the fatty hunk of meat out from the greasy, crunchy paper bag and feed it to myself like a satyr feeding a Greek god grapes or whatever, so I took the whole bag out of the room and ate it alone sitting on the staircase and it was, like, fucked up how special that moment was. 

I've since come around to tuna sweetcorn mayos. They're a good Monday lunch beigel. They're not appropriate for being drunk or when someone is eating salt beef next to you and especially not for both at the same time, unless you are a for real masochist who has given up on the possibility on ever being happy and relishes in experiencing bleak, fucked up levels of misery. Ten days ago I gave myself the assignment of eating every kind of Brick Lane Beigel there is and writing about it but I failed at it. I had a chicken bagel last week. The chicken was a cross between boiled and roasted and I was obsessed with it even though it blatantly sucked and was boring. I ate it with lots of salt and pepper alone in my restaurant and it was texturally unique. The chicken was sleek. Brick Lane Beigels come in waxed brown paper bags and the feeling of crunching up that bag in your fist is part of it. When you have salt beef the grease soaks through the bag and nothing is better than that bag, that grease. A smear of mustard on the greasy bag. People have been smearing mustard on those greasy bags since 1900. So many restaurants try to be cute and special but they will never be as cute or special as that bag so sucks to be everyone, all of us, everyone who isn't that bag. 


Okay. Now it's Tuesday. Tuesday, July 28th, 2015. I was going to eat a herring beigel today, but then my afternoon escaped me and by the time I had a second to eat a bagel I felt too hungry for a herring bagel, which are kind of weenie-looking, so I had a salmon & cream cheese bagel with salad. "Salad," at Brick Lane Beigel, means they shove some cuke & tomato slices onto your beigel: it's 20p, a decent deal. The tomatoes they use are so red, so unnecessarily high in quality! I would not be that appalled by the presence of a mealy whitish tomato slice on a scrappy bagel I payed like a pound for. 

The salmon & cream cheese Brick Lane beigel is not my fave. It made me think of a conversation between a stupid person and a smart person, where the stupid person is trying to convince the smart person of something, and the stupid person is being very loud and aggressive and weird about it, and then the smart person is just sort of sitting there smiling and nodding quietly and clenching their entire body very tightly with the tension of wishing so deeply they could do something to make the stupid person be quiet. The stupid person, in this metaphor, is the salmon. The smart person is the beigel. The smoked salmon makes such a stupidly big deal out of itself to a point where every non-salmony beigel bite I ate was a really joyful experience for me. It made me appreciate the beigel on a new level. 

The cream cheese and salad didn't hugely factor into my issues with today's beigel. They were innocent bystanders, extras in the film. 

Oh BTW I'm going to eat a different kind of beigel every day this week, until Friday, when I post my beigel-themed blog post. So only for the next three days really, which is not too out of character for me anyway. Here is a beigel-themed self-portrait I took: 

Hey! Wednesday here. Wednesday LJ, who ate a chopped herring bagel todayl! Wowie wow wow wow. What an adventure of a beigel the herring one is! I woke up this morning and settled into existing in the ways that I normally do (eggs, vitamins, coffee, Internet), and then my brain was just like... WHOA! HERRING! It was so clear to me, from as soon as the texture and narrative of this day became a Thing, that a chopped herring beigel was demanding to be a part of it. It was my only goal in the world for about five hours. I was so directional about it. I just needed to get myself to the bagel. 

I had no expectations. I didn't know what the herring was going to look like, on the bagel. I forgot that it was "chopped herring," and was imagining the herring as being real little herrings, individual fishies, laid out on the surface of the bagel like sardines in a tin. "Will they be salty?" I wondered. I was so curious! Even a bit naive. And I was nervous to order the beigel, like it was too "legit" of a beigel order for my weird North American-accented self to be ordering. Every time I buy myself a beigel I feel like I fuck it up somehow. The ladies who work there are all about eighty billion years old and we don't communicate too well. Plus, they are assholes. The other day I paid for my £2 bagel with a ten-pound note and the one lady, the brunette, the meanest, was like "You have £2?" and I was like "No, obvs," and then she basically told me she didn't have change to give me and I was like "What the fuck do I do" but then it turned out she did, she was just trying to hoard her change. And once I asked for "pickle on the side" and they were like "PICKLE?!?" and I realized you have to call it "gherkin" so the next day I asked for "Gherkin on the side" and they were like "ON THE SIDE?!?" And then I was like "Yeah, just throw it in the bag," and they were like "It's going to soak through the bag. Make sure the bag doesn't break." Like OKAY don't worry guys I'm pretty sure I can handle carrying a pickle in a paper bag across the street without my entire life falling apart. Thank you for your concern.

Anyway, I got my bagel and ran across the street and a bunch of my fun co-workers were sitting around doing laptop work and everyone seemed to be in a really cool and hyper mood, so I set up shop in my little spot, and I tucked into my beigel, and it was the most CRAZY MAGICAL thing! (Not "crazy, magical"- "crazy magical.") I loved it SO MUCH! The herring, I realized then, as we all know now, is chopped. It's sort of like a relish, a sweet brown paste, with an extraordinarily fishy undertone. Nope. Overtone. Eating one would be a good way to explain the concept of "umami" to someone who didn't understand it, AKA everyone- it's a tough one to wrap your head around! At wine school they explain it to you by making you eat powdered MSG, which is sort of fucked in my opinion. 

You know how sometimes people say "bagel nosh"? I don't really know what "nosh" means, in that context, but I feel like maybe I do, viscerally, now that I've eaten a chopped herring beigel. I noshed it. And, at the same time, it was a nosh. We all were.


Happy Thursday! Today I decided to really go apeshit on Brick Lane Beigel and try a salami bagel. I initially wrote that sentence as "go ham on Brick Lane Beigel" but then I remembered that salami is probably made out of pork (right?) so it kind of became this half-pun half-non-pun and I hated it. But still wanted to honour it. 

I did not enjoy my salami bagel. It was by far the worst Brick Lane Beigel I have ever had. The salami was weird, and ugly, and creepy. It just looked like a thick round block of pinkness on the bagel. It was a shade of pink that I would traditionally associate more with lipstick than with meat. I had a plan that I would order it with mustard and gherkin but then I shook things up at the last second and had it with "salad" and mayo instead. It sounded "fresher" to me that way. I took it into work and people weren't in chirpy fun moods like they were yesterday. One of my co-workers was on the phone with BT and kept saying "I'm going to kill myself." Then I juiced a case of lemons while wearing a leopard print dress and knew there was a Tweet in there somewhere but I didn't have the energy to find it. 

My beigel was nice in that it was food and I was hungry. But a really strange thing happened, midway through my eating it: I realized there was butter on it. Butter. BUTTER. How fucked is that??? 

I fought through my initial impulse to passionately hate on myself for eating a sandwich featuring both butter and mayonnaise, but "It's not your fault," I reminded myself, in a Good WIll Hunting way. It was true. There is a zero percent chance I would have ordered mayonnaise on my beigel had I known it would come equipped with a thick-ass splatula-ed slab of butter jammed into the back of it, not even evenly dispersed across the whole beigel. Thankfully they did such a shit job of spreading condiments onto the beigel that I never had to eat a bite of beigel that was salami, butter and mayonnaise at the same time. That would have killed me. I think it would have broken my heart. 

The salami didn't taste like anything. I was barely even thinking about the taste of things- I was mostly thinking about regret. Though I did develop a new emotion somewhere along the way, the journey, which was: deep respect. Deep respect for the beigel shop owners and their commitment to the insane belief that butter should be on salami beigels. One of my colleagues asked me what kind of beigel was having and I was ashamed of the answer so skirted the issue by saying "My thing this week is ordering every single kind of beigel on the menu," and then he asked me "White or yellow?" to mean "At the beigel shop with the white sign, or the beigel shop with the yellow sign?" and I said "White" and then he told me that at the yellow sign beigel shop they have different fillings, different options. 

"They have bacon," he said about the yellow sign place, "Bacon and cream cheese, that's the ticket." 

"I guess I know what I'm doing next week," I said, implying that what I'd be doing next week would be eating a bacon and cream cheese beigel. But it was a lie: I'm beigeled out. I'm not going to be eating any beigels next week. (Except for the tuna one I'm obviously going to eat on Monday, since let's be real here tuna beigels make for perfect Mondays and no amount of salami butter grossness is capable of fucking with that.) 

1 comment:

  1. No Bacon , it's a Jewish Bakery. The Salami is Beef too, which is why it's so strange.