Over the years, I’ve written several times on this site about bagels, especially regarding how hard it is to find a good one because too many places aren’t offering authentic bagels but rather boring round pieces of baked bread (they skip the boiling step in the cooking process!).
Last week, St. Louis food became a national meme when a guy posted a photo of some bagels he’d bought at the St. Louis Bread Company (known elsewhere as Panera) and had them “bread sliced.” This was universally condemned as a violation of food etiquette, and roundly mocked by people who posted some very funny parodies involving other foods (e.g. a hot dog with the frankfurter on the bun sideways so it’s sticking out of the middle).
But the best response I read was in a piece by Jaime Lees in the Riverfront Times, a weekly newspaper right here in St. Louis, entitled “It’s Not Just Bread-Sliced Bagels; All ‘St. Louis-Style’ Food Is Disgusting.” An excerpt:
There are plenty of real-ass food abominations in St. Louis, but what we do to pizza is criminal. We make it with super-thin cracker crust and we cover it with something called Provel. It’s a plasticky “processed cheese product” that ruins taste buds on contact, making people from St. Louis unable to tell the difference between real pizza and this trash after the age of two. It’s really more like nachos than pizza, but St. Louis just can’t get enough of the stuff.
We also have something here called “Gooey Butter Cake” — which is good if you’re actively trying to get diabetes. It’s like unbaked cake batter mixed with five pounds of butter and topped with powdered sugar. The finished product always seems so… raw.
We also deep-fry ravioli and call it “toasted ravioli.” Nope, no toasting involved. Just a vat of grease and a side of marinara sauce. The result is more like a mozzarella stick than anything resembling real Italian food, but whatever. Once you’ve accepted Provel into your life you might as well just fry everything.
To this day, Martha and I are horrified that our daughter used to love Imo’s pizza, made with Provel (which the company literally created) instead of mozzarella. And if you think bread-sliced bagels are geometrically wrong, you’ll hate seeing that Imo’s cross-cuts its pizzas into little squares instead of triangular slices. One of the best things about her going vegan is we never have to watch her eat that very un-pizza-like product anymore.
Lees goes on to rant about slingers and brain sandwiches, too, and you know what? I agree with him on every single point. It’s not just that it’s different than the food I grew up eating, since I’ve tried all sorts of varied cuisines in my six decades on this planet. But I’m happy to leave this stuff for the true St. Louisans, who can devour it to their hearts’ content.
And slice it any way they want.