I got to eat a bagel today.
For many, I can understand what an underwhelming statement that is, but for me, this is an occasion. I grew up on bagels. It was a staple in our house – regardless if they were frozen in our freezer, fresh from the grocery store, or special fresh from the bakery if my parents were feeling really happy on a weekend morning. UNH had an entire rack in the dining hall, and the Bagelry downtown was for extra special days. I have eaten more Dunkin Donuts bagels than I can count and was extra happy when they slathered on the cream cheese themselves instead of giving me the little packets of Philadelphia that never seemed to be enough.
I was blindsided when I realized that not ever country loves my favorite breakfast when I moved to Ascoli. There was not a bagel to be found in the city. I mourned in the bakeries and cried over my cereal until I found new favorites (sfoglia, mini pizzas, cornetto) which I liked well enough – and still do, but they aren’t replacements. The next bagel I got to spread cream cheese on was the one I found was in Dublin after being bagel-less for a few months, and it felt like it was the most delicious thing I had ever eaten at that moment. Every time I’ve gone home since I’ve moved here, I’ve almost refused to eat anything else in the morning. If there’s Mott’s Apple Juice, I’m ecstatic. I guess some things never get old. Maybe you could say it’s turned into a comfort food? All I know is that Italians don’t like them (or know about them enough to want them) so that means that I have bagel withdrawals regularly.
Thankfully, there’s one place in Florence called Mama’s Bakery that makes their own bagels, and they’re pretty much right up there on the ranks with the best from home. Today, I made plans for brunch with a friend and decided to use the occasion to head across town to get a bagel fix.
Mama’s is a small family business run by an international Italian-American couple. They studied how to perfect the bagel-making process by going to bagel school, and they limit their open hours in order to spend more time with their kids They’re also known for their brownies, cookies, and pies – especially around the holidays. Just today, I saw they have buffalo chicken on the menu, which is definitely going to make my next visit sooner rather than later. Unfortunately for me, I moved to the opposite end of the city, and I only make it over to Santo Spirito if I have an excuse – like meeting a friend, or if Rami and I are really motivated early enough in the day.
Sitting with an American-style coffee and an egg and cheese bagel sandwich, talking to a friend in English about US politics and rugby, I felt like I was home. I got up and ordered four more bagels to bring home. Then we split a cinnamon bun. The only thing different was that I was in actual clothes instead of sweatpants, and I had walked past the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, and Palazzo Pitti on my way.
As you grab your next egg and cheese from your kitchen or sesame-with-cream-cheese-ON-IT from the drive-thru, you appreciate that beautiful masterpiece! If you get a taste of life in Italy, you’ll have to replace that beautiful breakfast with sugar-covered cream-filled pastries (the horror) or little mini pizzas topped with all kinds of savory things (gasp). Fine, honestly, breakfast here is wonderful, but nothing beats a bagel – and you’ll be hard pressed to find a place like Mama’s in most of the boot.
So today, I got to eat a bagel, and I may just have another one for breakfast tomorrow – and that is a part of life in Italy that I bet you never thought of. Bagel withdrawals. 😉