A Montreal Bagel War Unites Rival Kings

MONTREAL — Irwin Shlafman, the proprietor of Fairmount Bagel, boasts that his bagels have been the primary in outer area, when his astronaut cousin introduced them to the International Space Station.

He additionally says Fairmount, based in 1919, is the oldest bagel joint on the town.

Just don’t inform that to his arch-bagel-rival, Joe Morena, the jovial proprietor of close by St-Viateur Bagel. He contends that his bagel place, opened in 1957, is Montreal’s longest constantly working bagel outfit, since Fairmount was closed for a time.

“His bagels went to the moon, yeah, sure,” Mr. Morena mentioned. “But the oldest? Give me one iota of proof!”

The two males are opponents within the enterprise of Montreal bagels, which have a particular taste from being boiled in honey-infused water earlier than being baked in a wood-burning oven.

These days, nevertheless, Mr. Shlafman and Mr. Morena are united towards a standard risk — environmentalists who wish to abolish the pollutant-producing ovens the place the bagels are made.

The battle heated up late final 12 months when rumors started to flow into City Hall official was planning to ban the ovens, which emit effective particles that may worsen respiratory illnesses like bronchial asthma. Angry neighbors had complained to town and a few have been boycotting the vaunted bagel outlets.

Coming to the protection of the bagels have been followers who treasure the carb-heavy snack as a necessary a part of town’s Jewish historical past and social cloth.

Montreal bagels have develop into a world culinary emblem of town, alongside smoked meat and poutine, and are doughy unifiers in a majority French-speaking province buffeted by identity politics.

But choosing between Fairmount and St-Viateur has long been a fault line in Montreal, akin to a New Yorker choosing between the Yankees or the Mets.

Mr. Morena, at St-Viateur, dismissed what he called anti-bagel “radicals.” “Why are they picking on small mom-and-pop bagel shops?” he asked, standing under St-Viateur’s wall of fame showing local celebrity patrons like Celine Dion.

“I want to be able to say that my bagels are hand rolled and cooked in a wood burning oven,” he said. “That’s what makes a Montreal bagel.”

He also says St-Viateur “bagels are like snowflakes,” each with a different shape, while Mr. Shlafman lauds his Fairmount bagels for their symmetry.

Jenna LeBlanc, an environmental scientist who is a bagel supporter, put it this way: “Some things just bring you comfort and joy,” she said on a recent pilgrimage to Fairmount with her mother.

For the moment, the bagel war is at an impasse. City Hall is considering a regulation that would require businesses with wood-burning ovens to install purifiers. Fairmount Bagel said it had already done so, while St-Viateur has installed a filter in one of its seven locations.

But the authorities in the area have banned new businesses from installing such ovens, causing alarm that the art of Montreal bagel-making could disappear.

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