The History of the Lox Bagel

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It took me until my adult years to trust that eating lox was not only a safe (is that fish raw??) but also an exceedingly delicious idea. Since then, I’ve made trying lox bagels at every new city I traveled to and never have had issues finding a place that sells this delicious breakfast treat. Like many food items that are ubiquitous in America, the origins of this dish are far more unclear than you might assume. Let’s take a look at the history of the bagel and lox!

Origins of Lox and Other Key Ingredients

The history of lox is well-known. Scandinavians pioneered the art of preserving salmon in saltwater brine. The Scandinavians also were adept in drying and smoking the fish to enhance its flavor. 

Capers originated in Italy, with cream cheese largely becoming popularized in Great Britain. While the origins of the main components of this dish are easily identified, it’s when we get to the bagel and the placing of these ingredients together to create the modern lox bagel that we have to really dig deep. 

The Origins of Bagels

While the thought of bagels as originating in Jewish communities is common, the modern-day bagel looks surprisingly similar to the bread sold by the Uighur merchants along the Silk Road trade routes in China for centuries. According to a historian who wrote for The Atlantic, other potential origins of the humble bagel include 14th century Poland, and 17th century Austria.

But when was the magic of lox and the savory bagel paired to create the oral treat known as bagel and lox?

The Lox Bagel is Born

More than likely, the lox bagel was created in New York, which was and still is a cultural melting pot of ethnicities from around the world. A simple look at the ingredients above shows just how many different cultures had to come together to create this dish, making it a true example of the American melting pot at its best (and most delicious.) 

While difficult to pin down exactly, it’s likely that the bagel and lox originated in the Lower East Side of New York, home to a sizeable Jewish community, just prior to the turn of the century. The affordable nature of bagels and lox made this a meal for the masses; bagels could be eaten even when stale, while lox could be preserved even without refrigeration. 

As with many things, the bagel and lox was a marriage of convenience, affordability, and different cultures. The end result is a delicious dish enjoyed by people around the country and the world. 

For more info, check out these really great articles on the history of lox, bagels, and the delicious combination of the two! 

Lox: An American Love Story (Moment Magazine)

The Secret History of Bagels (The Atlantic)

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