Coffee with bagel

The (J)Oy! of Bagels

Eating clean. It’s been real, it’s been fun, and it’s been real fun. It’s also been adventurous. Recently, in my committed attempt to eat bagels that do not have additives (like derivatives of human hair in them – blah!), I decided to make my own bagels from scratch.

The idea came to me when I had stopped in my neighborhood bagel shop and saw that a single bagel cost a whopping $1.30! That meant that a dozen bagels would cost me well over a dozen dollars (even with the price break you usually get by buying a dozen of anything), and I had a hard time forking over so much money for something that was made with flour (cheap) and water (really cheap). But, there was no going back to the  store-bought, 12-for-$5 bulk bagels either. So in a flash of genius (or maybe sleep deprived delirium?), I decided I would cut out the middle man and make the bagels myself.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I love New York style bagels. There’s just something about their chewiness that makes them so much better than the lighter, airy bagels out there (sorry Montreal bagel lovers!). So I decided to try out a recipe for chewy, New York style bagels (which I found here).

Having baked bread before, I knew that I would need to allow ample time for the dough to rise (Read: This will be a multi-hour process). However, what I didn’t account for were the many steps involved in the bagel baking process, which also included shaping the bagels and boiling them.

Now don’t get me wrong here, boiling bagels takes like a whopping 5 minutes once you have the water going. That wasn’t too bad. But where the real added time comes in in cleaning up all the mess that comes from boiling bagels (where do you put a dozen wet bagels once you take them out of the pot?) and sprinkling on sesame seeds (“nature’s confetti”) … which makes a mess that is really <insert-adjective-of-choice> to clean up.

All that by itself would have been okay, but I had no idea how to then bake the bagels to get the flat bottom and nicely rounded top. Do you bake them upside down and then turn them over halfway or is it the other way around? Or, maybe you just leave them as is and hope they bake evenly? “Hmm…These are questions the neighborhood bagel baker who charges $1.30 per bagel would know the answers to…”

In any case, I made a few guesses and a big mess and ended up with deliciously chewy, albeit misshapen, bagels. I’ve never felt prouder eating an uglier piece of bread in my life.

At the end of my bagel-baking adventure, I had delicious, “clean” home-made bagels that cost me a couple bucks (and a lot of sweat equity) to produce. And more importantly, I held the neighborhood bagel baker (and his prices) in much higher esteem. Maybe $1.30 for a bagel ain’t so bad after all!

How To Throw Your Money Away – Almost Literally

Open your wallet and take out three dollars. Now, go to a public trashcan (where you won’t be tempted to dig it out). Look into the trashcan; inhale the sweet scent of rotting food, receipts, and stale beer. Stare at the trash – doesn’t it look so pretty? Now hold your fist with the three dollars in it over the trashcan, and let go. Can you do it? I bet you can’t (or if you can, you don’t want to).

When you purchase one-time use, disposable products, you are literally throwing your money into the trashcan (and generating a lot more waste in the process). In terms of energy and waste, it might even be better for the environment to just throw your money directly into the trashcan than to purchase plastic knives, which will remain a plastic fork albeit buried in dirt for hundreds or even thousands of years. To put this into perspective, it means that we could dig up plastic forks from the Civil War (if they had used them bask then) today. Is that the kind of legacy we want to leave?

To illustrate just how much money we are throwing into that dirty, smelly public trashcan, I went to Target to get some sample prices on disposable items. Here is what one dinner party for 8 would cost you:

  • $1.99 for a set of plastic forks and spoons for 8 people
  • $1.59 for “cute” paper plates for 8 people (16 total, 1 for the main meal and 1 for dessert)
  • $0.38 for 8 plastic cups
  • $1.79 for a disposable tablecloth

Total Amount of Money Thrown Away = $3.96

Now, if you happen to make a special trip to the store to purchase said disposable goods, you will need to add an additional $5.10 into your trashcan:

6.8 miles – Average distance from your home to the grocery store round-trip x $0.75 per mile (average cost to drive a car per mile)

Tack on another $1.79 for a disposable tablecloth and you’re looking at $10.85 you just threw into the trash. And we didn’t even include sales tax.

Now, if you decided to use real plates and utensils, you could load an entire dishwasher with them, use 4-6 gallons of water (on average) to wash them at $0.02 per gallon, 1.8 kw of electricity (average energy use for one load) at an US average of $0.13 an hour. You could even use a fancy dishwasher detergent pod ($0.19) and you end up spending 50 to 53 CENTS to provide utensils and plates for your dinner party. Of course you will need to factor in the cost of items like plates and a dishwasher (over time), but if you already own these (as most of us do), then why opt to waste money and resources and buy disposable when you can put that money to more enjoyable uses, like getting better food for the party or saving for a Hawaiian vacation (we can dream big here)?

So next time you reach for that disposable plate, ask your self, “Self, do we want to throw this money into the trash or do we want to sip Mai Tais by the beach?” I think you’ll know the answer.