The bagel is instantly recognizable, ubiquitous in our breakfast-obsessed culture, undisputedly Jewish in origin, but hardly the first round-shaped bread. The first rolls-with-a-hole, found in the Mediterranean, were unlike the bagels we know and love; they weren't boiled before they were baked. Bakers in Poland are credited with developing the method that develops a definitive, glossy crust. This hard outer layer drastically increased the bread's shelf life [source: Nathan].
This made bagels a practical choice to pack for a transatlantic cruise. Soon, more bagels were sighted on American shores, and their popularity grew. Eastern European immigrants arriving in U.S. cities were comforted by the sight of a familiar food. Jewish bakers modified their recipes to comply with kosher laws, catering to a key demographic while further increasing the unique bread's prevalence. The International Beigel Bakers' Union was created in 1907 in New York City, cementing its reputation as America's bagel capital.
Over a century later, sales are still increasing as Americans grab more breakfast on the fly. According to breakfast sales data from 2008, bagels (13.3 percent of sales) trailed doughnuts and muffins (34.3 and 20 percent, respectively). However, overall bagel sales had increased more than 10 percent from a nearly identical time frame in 2007, even though they usually cost more than doughnuts and muffins.