Jan 6, 2017

Bagels in Costa Rica! Inspiration from Author Ilana Long

  Kar-Ben author Ilana Long shares her love of bagels and inspiration for her book about bagels, Ziggy's Big Idea .
  I got the big idea for my book Ziggy’s Big Idea when my mother-in-law returned from a talk on the history of the bagel, and I knew I had my topic for a children’s book! I’ve always been a bit of a bagel fanatic. I grew up in Cleveland as the granddaughter of a rabbi, and it was our Sunday morning ritual to head to the local deli and order a bagel slathered with cream cheese, topped off with a decadent slice of lox. Capers and red onions were optional! But no matter how they were decorated, bagels always reminded of family, comfort, nostalgia and home.

            So when I moved to Costa Rica with my husband and twin teenagers three years ago to teach at an international school, I missed my Sunday treat. Sure, I tried to make do with tortillas sprinkled with sesame seeds, but let me tell you, they didn’t even come close! I craved the rich, dense bread and the toasted perfection of my youth!

            On Friday nights, I attended services at our Costa Rican synagogue. After the service, the congregation snacked on cakes and cookies and carrot sticks as we chatted and I tried desperately to pick up on the Spanish conversations. 

            One evening, famished, I headed for the snack table and nearly fell over with excitement. There on the table was a basket of bagels. In Costa Rica! There was cream cheese, lox and red onion, too.  If it hadn’t been for the urgings of my children: “Mom! They’re just bagels. Save some for the rest of us!” I might have devoured the entire basket! 

            “Where did they come from?” I asked, my mouth full, still in blissful awe.

            “I make ‘em. I’m the Costa Rican bagel guy!” It was David Feingold, originally from Boston. His baking business, “Boston Bagels” (in Costa Rica) provides bagels, pizza dough and challahs not only for Costa Rica, but also for other lucky Central American countries. Everything bagels, sesame, poppy seed, and all manner of Boston Bagel flavors can be found in restaurants, store fronts and major stores in Central America.

                “Before founding the company, my wife Olga and I met as students in the United States where we often frequented east coast bagel shops.  Upon moving to Costa Rica, in 1997 we were pioneers in promoting bagels and opened Boston Bagel, the first bagel bakery in Costa Rica.  In 2012 we began to export our products to the rest of Central America.”
Boston Bagels took part recently in helping out the Costa Rican community after the terrible devastation here from Hurricane Otto. The employees recycled used flour bags to fill with care packages for the daily needs of the victims. Also, Feingold’s company provided bagels and cream cheese for the many volunteers at the Red Cross of Costa Rica.

            Happily, I now bring bagels to school with my lunch, eat them on the beach and take them with me on jungle hikes. I have to be careful munching on a deli bagel if I spot white-faced monkeys in the trees.  I’m not the only one who craves these delicious treats, no matter where in the world I find myself!

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