Montreal Gazette

Here’s proof: Mon­treal bagels are out of this world

FAIR­MOUNT’S BEST ABOARD SHUT­TLE Mon­treal- born astro­naut has 18 se­same from his rel­a­tive’s bak­ery


The famed Fair­mount bagel is reach­ing new heights thanks to an astro­naut with a yen for that dis­tinc­tive treat.

It seems Mon­treal-born astro­naut Greg Chamitoff, who be­gan a six-month stint aboard the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion yes­ter­day, was quite ex­cited about the idea of float­ing in space with the com­fort of the chewy, slightly sweet variety of bagel this city is fa­mous for by his side.

When NASA of­fi­cials asked Chamitoff for a favourite food to take aboard space shut­tle Dis­cov­ery, he picked the hum­ble bagel as his pre­ferred snack for the flight.

And not just any Mon­tre­al­style bagel, but 18 se­same bagels from his rel­a­tives’ Mon­treal Fair­mount Bagel, which usu­ally com­petes with St. Vi­a­teur bagels a block away for the crown as the city’s best.

“We’re just thrilled,” said Mona Sh­laf­man, his aunt, who re­opened the bagel fac­tory in 1979 and with her late hus­band got the old wood oven burn­ing again.

The bak­ing gives the bagel a charred sur­face, and the gloss comes from be­ing dipped in hon- ey or malt-sweet­ened wa­ter.

She re­called that Chamitoff was raised in the Chomedey dis­trict of Laval and at­tended Crestview El­e­men­tary be­fore his fam­ily moved to the United States when he was 11.

His yen for the Fair­mount bagel de­vel­oped from care pack­ages sent to the U.S. and the times he vis­ited the Cana­dian Space Agency in Longueuil, his cousin, Rhonda Sh­laf­man, said.

“When we used to visit in Cal­i­for­nia we would bring (bagels), and when they would visit for the hol­i­days they would come to the bagel fac­tory.

“His favourite is the gar­lic bagel, but I didn’t dare send gar­lic bagels – they would have stunk up the whole place.”

There is no freezer on board the In­ter­na­tion Space Sta­tion and most food has to be de­hy­drated or vac­uum packed, she said.

But the as­tro­nauts were given some lib­erty to ful­fill a “wish list.”

Sh­laf­man said she an­swered his re­quest by send­ing sam­ples.

“They wanted to see how long they would last so I sent a few dif­fer­ent flavours. He set­tled on the se­same.”

That made sense since the se­same variety lasts longer be­cause of the nat­u­ral oil in the seed that keeps the bagels moist.

“I sent four six-packs but only three six-packs made it into space.”

The peo­ple from NASA first said he could only have “seven pieces” on his food tray.

“But I sent 24 bagel fig­ur­ing there would be some ex­tra for his col­leagues and the ground crew. Whoever wanted to eat them, would eat them.

“Then he emailed me that he was al­lowed three six-packs and was very happy.”

She sent them to Florida on Fri­day, the day be­fore the launch.

Chamitoff will be liv­ing on the space sta­tion for six months, but Sh­laf­man said yes­ter­day: “I’m sure the bagels are gone al­ready.” What about the cream cheese? “They may have taken some, but I never asked,” she replied.

And what about those messy seeds that al­ways end up on your lap?

“They’re go­ing to be float­ing, I guess, be­cause they won’t fall.

“Maybe the as­tro­nauts will go around lick­ing them out of the air.”

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