Why the English Muffin Is Vastly Superior to the Bagel

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

As an Englishman living in New York, I confess to being befuddled, if not outright outraged, by the obsession with bagels. Regular bagels, everything bagels, rainbow bagels, Canadians bagels — enough! Can we get over the bagel please?

Here are five reasons — actually, there are many more than five, but life’s implacable clock ticks on — why the English muffin is vastly superior to the bagel.

1. English muffins don’t have holes.

Bagels have holes in them. You know this already. So my question is, which numbskull thought it was a good idea to put a great big hole in the middle of a piece of bread? I suppose you could argue that the hole in a bagel is a symbol of the hole in the self, aka hunger, which gets filled by eating the bagel. But, really? Can we just assume I’m hungry and leave it at that?

Because let me tell you, when you schmear your bagel with something delicious like marmalade (recent true conversation in a café: Me: “Do you have any marmalade?”, Server: “Is that the orange one?”) it’s only a matter of time before it slides down through the hole onto something important, like your parole papers or your dog. This is not acceptable in a modern society.

Take a lead from the humble English muffin: the uneven but intact surface of a muffin split in half serves as the perfect repository for “the orange one,” and so much else.

2. Bagels are too bready.

Face it — bagels are kryptonite compared to the English muffin. Maybe the hole is a counterbalance to all that breadiness; nonetheless, if you’ve grown up on the filigree charms of the muffin, being faced with an entire bagel — both halves! — can be daunting. Where does all that dough go? 350 calories in a bagel is just too, too many; the English muffin, on the other hand, maxes out at about 150, meaning you can have at least two every morning. This is math, people.

3. Bagels encourage extreme schmearing.

Now this might not be the fault of the bagel per se, but there’s something about standing in line to get a bagel for breakfast that leads people to do the wrong thing. I talk, of course, of what goes on the bagel. I don’t bat an eyelid if the purchaser ahead of me chooses low-fat cream cheese, or butter and jelly, or even peanut butter (although peanut butter should be banned worldwide in my not-so-humble opinion).

But some of the combinations one hears in the deli line are, frankly, too upsetting to share on a family-friendly website such as this one. I’m sure some of you reading this will do something perverse like invent strange and morally dubious combinations in the comments sections — just to upset my delicate sensibilities — and it is to you, dear reader, that I say: “Please don’t.” Stick to what is right and proper in all things, including what’s on yer bagel.

4. English muffins fit in the toaster.

Ever tried to jam a bagel into a toaster? I can tell by the look of shame on your face that not only did you try, but you also then found yourself at P.C. Richard’s that very same day buying a new toaster.

I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but bagels don’t fit in toasters, which is fine, I guess, as a lot of things — shoes, for example, and the cat — don’t fit in toasters either, but you’re probably not trying to toast Tiddles (unless she peed on the bedspread again I suppose, but even then, it’s not her fault and you should clean the litter more regularly). So if we agree that bagels don’t fit in toasters, then how does one toast a bagel, because the bagel looks pretty toastable to me my friends?

The English muffin, on the other hand, slips in nice and easy, nestling in the hot wires until ping! Up it comes, golden and ready for a tranche of butter. The bagel just jimmies itself in there and goes nowhere, gently smoking then bursting into flames, taking the toaster you got for your second wedding with it.

5. English muffins are English (sort of).

Everyone loves the Brits. Yes, we often play the baddy in the movie, but we can also play the sort-of-foppish love interest who’s not only harmless, but that accent! Merely by its name — English muffin — does the bread product announce its pedigree. And while it’s not technically English, it was invented by an Englishman, so that counts in my book.

Should the bagel wish to compete, might I suggest it change its name to the British bagel? I could perhaps put up with the hole, the calories, the urge to schmear it with anchovy juice, and the fire in my kitchen if it came with a better imprimatur: perhaps the Betty Bagel, after Queen Elizabeth II? I’m sure she’d be honored.