Bagel Store This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

Coffee, onions, and baking bagels combine to form a perfect harmony of scent in the air as we enter the store. Fragrant, steamy air warms us. I think I would know where I am with my eyes closed: I’m at our neighborhood bagel store, East Coast Bagels.
This store has been in our local shopping center for my whole life. I can’t remember not coming here on “dates” with my parents. It is changeless, unlike its customers. The décor is meant to evoke New York, judging by the slightly lopsided old New Yorker covers that hang framed on the wall. The store stands out like a pine tree in a jungle among our obviously West-coast, Asian-restaurant-filled shopping center.
As I and my Mom or Dad step into the long line, we stand behind East Asians, Persians, and WASPs. The back of the store is open, like a book; this establishment has nothing to hide. The workers are all Hispanic. I like to watch them handle the huge vats of boiling bagels. Theirs is not an unskilled job; I wonder how long I’d last in it.
The Jewish history of bagels doesn’t deter the burka-wearing woman ahead of us in line from getting one. I hear the workers in the back of the store chatting in Spanish and wish my Spanish were good enough that I could understand them.
There are plain bagels, sourdough bagels (a West-coast invention, I presume), apple-cinnamon bagels, jalapeño bagels, and “everything” bagels (seeded onion-garlic bagels that are guaranteed to ruin your breath for the rest of the day). There’s even a whole-wheat bagel for the jogging-suit-clad woman who comes in after her morning exercise. I order an apple-cinnamon bagel with light cream cheese and an orange juice and go sit down at one of the tiny tables. I love hearing the gentle background murmur of the diners preparing for their Saturdays.
“What are your plans?”
“--the game--”
“--having the kids over--”
“--major yard work--”
The answers are as varied and interesting as the people who give them. Imagine all the things that will get done today by people who eat breakfast here. The workers are not just making a commodity; they’re fueling several weekends at once.
My parent comes to our table, carrying our bagels in a paper bag. We pray, then dig in. At one bite, I understand what has the power to reconcile races and creeds, create jobs, and fortify weekenders: a little circular bread product, and the love it inspires.





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