Bagel and cream cheese

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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 an open-faced sandwich made of a bagel spread with cream cheese. The bagel is typically sliced into two pieces, and can be served as-is or toasted. The basic bagel with cream cheese serves as the base for other sandwiches such as the "lox and schmear", a staple of delicatessens in the New York area, and across the U.S.

American cuisine[edit]

A toasted bagel with cream cheese

A bagel with cream cheese is common in American cuisine and the cuisine of New York City.[1] In the United States, the bagel and cream cheese is often eaten for breakfast, and when paired with smoked salmon, it is sometimes served for brunch.[1][2][3][4] In New York City circa 1900, a popular combination consisted of a bagel topped with lox, cream cheese, capers, tomato, and red onion.[5]

The combination of a bagel with cream cheese has been promoted to American consumers in the past by American food manufacturers and publishers.[6] In the early 1950s, Kraft Foods launched an "aggressive advertising campaign" that depicted Philadelphia-brand cream cheese with bagels.[7] 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.[6]

American Jewish cuisine[edit]

A "lox and a schmear" refers to 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", indicating a bagel with cream cheese.[8][9] A "slab" is a bagel served with a slab of cream cheese atop it.[9] A "lox and a schmear" refers to a bagel with cream cheese and lox or smoked salmon.[10][11] Tomato, red onion, capers and chopped hard-boiled egg are additional ingredients that are sometimes used on the lox and schmear.[11][12] All of these terms are used at some delicatessens in New York City, particularly at Jewish delicatessens and older, more traditional delicatessens.[9][13]

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.[11] A high amount of salt in the fish necessitated the addition of bread and cheese to reduce the lox's saltiness.[11] 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.[1][a]

Mass production[edit]

Both bagels and cream cheese are mass-produced foods in the United States.[1][15][16] 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.[17][18]

In popular culture[edit]

Bagels and cream cheese were provided to theater patrons by the cast of Bagels and Yox, a 1951 American-Yiddish Broadway revue, during the intermission period of the show.[a][19][20][21] The revue ran at the Holiday Theatre in New York City from September 1951 to February 1952.[19][21] A 1951 review of Bagels and Yox published in Time magazine helped to popularize bagels to American consumers throughout the country.[7][22]

"Bagel and Lox" is a humorous song about the virtues of the bagel, lox, and cream cheese sandwich. It was written by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett. It has been recorded by several different artists, including Eddie "Rochester" Anderson[23] and, more recently, Rob Schneider,[24] Joan Jaffe,[25] and Oleg Frish.[26] The lyrics to the chorus are:

Bagel and lox with the cheese in the middle,
Bagel and lox let it toast on the griddle,
Bagel and lox with the cheese in the middle,
And a slice of onion on the side.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The next stop for the bagel: Broadway. Its break into stardom came in the 1950s. By that time, the cream-cheese bagel was close to supplanting the traditional, Saturday-morning ham, eggs, and toast in America. It had saturated the culture."[14]


  1. ^ a b c d Smith, A.F. (2013). New York City: A Food Biography. Big City Food Biographies. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 169. ISBN 978-1-4422-2713-2. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  2. ^ Jenkins, J. (2007). The Hollywood Trainer Weight-Loss Plan: 21 Days to Make Healthy Living a Lifetime Habit. Penguin Publishing Group. p. 227. ISBN 978-1-4406-2865-8. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  3. ^ Cripps, J.B. (2004). Targeting the Source Text: A Coursebook in English for Translator Trainees. Aprender a traducir. Digitalia. p. 194. ISBN 978-84-8021-494-0. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  4. ^ Colameco, M. (2009). Mike Colameco's Food Lover's Guide to New York City. Wiley. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-470-04443-8. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  5. ^ Adamson, M.W.; Segan, F. (2008). Entertaining from Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 94. ISBN 978-0-313-08689-2.
  6. ^ a b Quick Frozen Foods. E.W.Williams Publications. 1977. p. 14. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Smith, A.F.; Oliver, G. (2015). Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover's Companion to New York City. Oxford University Press. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-19-939702-0. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  8. ^ West, C.K. (2012). The Psychology of Bagels. Barking Loons, Incorporated. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-9883823-0-5. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  9. ^ a b c Axelrod, A. (2011). The Cheaper the Crook, the Gaudier the Patter: Forgotten Hipster Lines, Tough Guy Talk, and Jive Gems. Skyhorse Publishing. p. 125. ISBN 978-1-62873-017-3. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  10. ^ Let's Go New York City 16th Edition. Let's Go New York City. St. Martin's Press. 2006. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-312-36087-0. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  11. ^ a b c d "A Field Guide to the American Sandwich". The New York Times. April 14, 2015. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  12. ^ Viggiano, Brooke (October 29, 2012). "What's Cooking This Week? Bagels, Lox and Schmear + More". Houston Press. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  13. ^ Dixler, Hillary (June 30, 2014). "The Classic Bagel and Salmon Sandwich at Russ & Daughters in New York City". Eater. Retrieved August 2, 2017.
  14. ^ Muston, Samuel (January 30, 2015). "A freshly-cooked bagel is good for the soul". The Independent. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  15. ^ Fox, Margalit (September 22, 2015). "Daniel Thompson, Whose Bagel Machine Altered the American Diet, Dies at 94". The New York Times. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  16. ^ Weinzweig, A. (2003). Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating: How to Choose the Best Bread, Cheeses, Olive Oil, Pasta, Chocolate, and Much More. Houghton Mifflin. p. 208. ISBN 978-0-395-92616-1. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  17. ^ Thompson., Stephanie (January 13, 2003). "New to-go line: Kraft boosts bucks for Philly". AdAge. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  18. ^ Brandweek. Adweek. 2003. p. 8. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  19. ^ a b Dietz, D. (2014). The Complete Book of 1950s Broadway Musicals. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 84–86. ISBN 978-1-4422-3505-2. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  20. ^ Piepenburg, Erik (August 24, 2008). "A Guide to the Obscure References in '[title of show]'". The New York Times. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  21. ^ a b Kanfer, S. (2007). Stardust Lost: The Triumph, Tragedy, and Mishugas of the Yiddish Theater in America. Vintage Series. Vintage Books. p. 262. ISBN 978-1-4000-7803-5. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  22. ^ Smith, A. (2013). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. OUP USA. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-19-973496-2. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  23. ^ "Bagel and Lox: Tepper". Internet Archive. Retrieved August 2, 2017.
  24. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff. "The Jewish Songbook: The Heart & Humor of a People". AllMusic. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  25. ^ "Joan Jaffe Sings Funny..." AllMusic. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  26. ^ "Duets with My American Idols". AllMusic. Retrieved August 3, 2017.

Further reading[edit]

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