There are hundreds upon hundreds of wonderful spice blends out there, all of which promise unique flavor but far fewer of which promise versatility. There aren’t too many seasonings that are delicious and adaptable enough to go with everything—but that’s how people treat Everything but the Bagel Seasoning, which bottles up the star flavors of an NYC bagel for our culinary enjoyment. Its many uses are not what the word “everything” is referencing, though. So how did the famous bagel get its name?
Before the seasoning was packaged up and sold, it was exclusively found sprinkled on bagels. It’s comprised of a blend of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onion, dried garlic, and salt. Although that is a fair amount of spices, I wouldn’t call it everything, would you?
The origin of the blend is actually fairly tough to pin down; a number of people have claimed to have created the everything bagel’s signature seasoning. Considering that sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onion, garlic, and salt are each bagel toppings in their own right, it does make it difficult to definitively say which exact person created a mixture from what was already available.
Atlas Obscura writes that we can, at the very least, credit a man named David Gussin with giving the spice blend its “everything” title. Around 1980 Gussin was working in a bagel shop in Queens, New York, and while cleaning out the oven he gathered excess toppings that had fallen off the bagels. He suggested putting the excess toppings back on a bagel and selling them as an “everything bagel.” So, in an effort to minimize food waste, the Everything Bagel was born.
Others, meanwhile, have claimed similar oven cleaning origins as to how they invented the everything bagel, but the name seems primarily attributed to Gussin, and the name is a big part of what makes the blend so memorable. Those of us who have grown up knowing the everything bagel as one of the most popular varieties might be surprised to learn its history only spans a few decades.
In a Midwestern attempt to create a complement to New York’s everything bagel, the mish mosh bagel was born, explained USA Today in 2013. Sold by New York Bagel & Bialy Corporation, which has two Chicagoland locations, the “mish mosh” is likely a play on the word “mishmash,” which refers to a “hodgepodge or jumble.”
The mish mosh bagel is made with poppy, caraway, and sesame seeds, dried garlic and onion, and salt. The caraway seeds appear to be what separates the mish mosh from being an everything bagel copycat—and those little aromatic additions can add an impressive amount of flavor.
Although I find Everything But the Bagel Seasoning to be just a bit too salty, I can respect any tradition rooted in reducing food waste. Just look at where a little ingenuity can get you. The everything bagel is a perfect example of how a seemingly simple idea can have a huge impact on the food world.