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Bagel and cream cheese facts for kids

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A bagel and cream cheese (also known as bagel with cream cheese) is a common food pairing in American cuisine, the cuisine of New York City, and American Jewish cuisine, consisting in its basic form of a sliced bagel spread with cream cheese. The bagel with cream cheese is traditionally and most commonly served as a sandwich, sliced horizontally and spread with cream cheese and other toppings in the middle. Beginning in the 1980s as bagels expanded in popularity beyond Jewish communities, the bagel sandwich became increasingly popular for its portability. The basic bagel with cream cheese serves as the base for other items such as the "lox and schmear", a staple of delicatessens in the New York City area and across the U.S. While non-Jewish ingredients take well to bagel sandwiches, such as eggs and breakfast meats, cold cuts and sliced cheese, several traditional Jewish toppings for bagels do not work well between bagel halves, including the popular whitefish salad, pickled herring or chopped liver for the simple mechanical reason that soft toppings easily squirt out the sides when the bagel is bitten, as even a fresh bagel is firmer than most breads.

American cuisine

Toasted bagel with cream cheese
A toasted bagel with cream cheese

A bagel with cream cheese is common in American cuisine, particularly in New York City. It is often eaten for breakfast; with smoked salmon added, it is sometimes served for brunch. In New York City circa 1900, a popular combination consisted of a bagel topped with lox, cream cheese, capers, tomato, and red onion.

The combination of a bagel with cream cheese has been promoted to American consumers in the past by American food manufacturers and publishers. In the early 1950s, Kraft Foods launched an "aggressive advertising campaign" that depicted Philadelphia-brand cream cheese with bagels. In 1977, Better Homes and Family Circle magazines published a bagel and cream cheese recipe booklet that was distributed in the magazines and also placed in supermarket dairy cases.

American Jewish cuisine

*this* is a bagel
A "lox and a schmear" is a sliced bagel with cream cheese and lox, a part of American Jewish cuisine.

In American Jewish cuisine, a bagel and cream cheese is sometimes called a "whole schmear" or "whole schmeer". A "slab" is a bagel with a slab of cream cheese on top. A "lox and a schmear" is to a bagel with cream cheese and lox or smoked salmon. Tomato, red onion, capers and chopped hard-boiled egg are often added. These terms are used at some delicatessens in New York City, particularly at Jewish delicatessens and older, more traditional delicatessens.

The lox and schmear likely originated in New York City around the time of the turn of the 20th century, when street vendors in the city sold salt-cured belly lox from pushcarts. A high amount of salt in the fish necessitated the addition of bread and cheese to reduce the lox's saltiness. It was reported by U.S. newspapers in the early 1940s that bagels and lox were sold by delicatessens in New York City as a "Sunday morning treat", and in the early 1950s, bagels and cream cheese combination were very popular in the United States, having permeated American culture.

Mass production

Both bagels and cream cheese are mass-produced foods in the United States. Additionally, in January 2003, Kraft Foods began purveying a mass-produced convenience food product named Philadelphia To Go Bagel & Cream Cheese, which consisted of a combined package of two bagels and cream cheese.

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