Breakfast

I am not a breakfast person. I've never been a breakfast person. I know, it's the most important meal the day. It shouldn't be skipped. Etc. Etc. Etc. I just don't like breakfast. Well, kind of. I actually don't mind most traditional breakfast foods in limited quantities. I think it's more the monotonous repetition of foods combined with the fact that it takes a good hour or two most days for my appetite to wake up that causes me to dislike breakfast. (I suspect my appetite would wake up faster if I didn't start the morning off with coffee but who wants to change that?)

One thing that has regularly been able to wake up my appetite are bagels. I'm a pretty big fan of carbs in general but it's Montreal bagels in particular that make me happy.

Breakfast. My stash of Montreal bagels. #fmsphotoaday



Now, let me explain for those that have never experienced a Montreal-style bagel -- these bagels bear no resemblance to the bagels you'll find in your grocery store or in New York aside from the fact that they are round, have holes and are called bagels. Montreal bagels are smaller. They are denser. They are sweeter. No, I'm not saying they are sweet. There is just a hint of sweetness in them, from the honey-sweetened water they are boiled in before being popped into a wood-burning oven. It's a bit like honey-oat bread is sweeter than plain old white bread but that doesn't mean it's a dessert loaf.

I remember when bagels really started hitting our grocery stores in either the late 80s or early 90s. They were large and doughy and a nice change from toast for breakfast. They were not, however, anything special. Then I moved to Montreal.

Despite the fact that I was not a breakfast person, my dorm offered three meals a week Monday - Friday and seeing as I was paying for the meals already, and I really didn't have the funds to feed myself during the week as well as on the weekends, I got up for breakfast almost every single morning. Most people skipped it and that was unfortunate because breakfast was actually one of the better meals they provided. Every morning we'd climb the stairs of the cafeteria building and made a choice as to which breakfast we wanted. We could have the hot breakfast -- with the eggs and bacon or sometimes even fried doughbabies - or we could turn the other way and go for the cold breakfast. While there were days when the scent of bacon would lure us to the hot breakfast (mmm bacon), more often than not we'd turn toward the cold breakfast.

The cold breakfast had its share of cereals, yogurt and toast but it also had bagels. Montreal bagels. I think I ate more bagels (and croissants because I have a hard time turning those down) that year than I have any year before or since. The days when I'd grab a brown bag lunch (excellent option if you had class during lunch) chances I'd put a bagel sandwich in that as well.

Unlike many Montreal residents, I didn't become a firm devotee of any particular bagel shop. If you want to get a group of Montrealers riled ask if they get their bagels at St-Viateur or Fairmont and then declare the opposite is the best. I buy from both. When I lived downtown I was more likely to grab my bagels from the Faubourg than to schlep my way to the Plateau and back for bagels. When I lived in N.D.G. Dad's Bagels were the closest bagel shop and I frequently stopped there to stock up for the week.

Now it's rare that we make a visit to Montreal and don't stop at a bagel shop. We alternate between Fairmont and St-Viateur, depending on how traffic is and if any streets are closed off or which we figure won't have a pothole bigger than our truck. (Montreal potholes are of the opinion that you go big or go home.)

I'll dart inside and buy several dozen, mostly white but we'll buy some black if we are buying for friends. I'll toss in a couple of containers of Liberte cream cheese and then run back to the corner to meet Lee, who has been circling the block because it's always impossible to find parking, my arms filled with bags full of bagels. The bagels will be warm, the heat making the paper bags damp. I hop in the truck, toss most of the bagels in the backseat. I'll reach into a bag and grab two bagels, which Lee and I will eat warm and plain. They will be soft and sweet and don't need a single thing on them.

When I get home I'll slice them and stick them in freezer to pull out when I need a taste of Montreal. They are never as good toasted as they are when grabbed warm from the paper bag, but when one lives hours away from Montreal one must make concessions.