Cream Cheese, Bagels and Friendship

 in Kitchen


In my house there were English Muffins, the bagel wasn’t something we really had or knew about. I honestly don’t know when I had my first bagel but I feel like it would have been in Chicago where I drank my first coffee. Bagels aren’t something that transport me to childhood, all my memories of bagels are from Adulthood. There were bagels in Chicago, and New York, there were bagels from the dining hall, or everything bagels from my fridge. The bagel was in almost every lunch I had for years as if I was trying to make up for lost time. Now having lived in the Yucatan for 4 years, bagels are my American nostalgia. Some folks dream of pancakes, others of baseball hotdogs or pizza by the slice. I only dream of the bagels, freshly made that day.

It was in college that the passion was truly sparked.  I asked my good friend Kate about bagels and she immediately reminded me of my ingenious bagel caring device (as I’m sure I called it).  I laughed to myself as I too remembered it. As an environmentally friendly and slightly penny pinching college student I needed to transport for my food because lunch was usually eaten over a book between classes.  I carried soup around in old glass peanut butter jars and my never failing bagel sandwich fit perfectly inside of an empty plastic case that once held a stack of blank cds. I hated to throw anything away (reduce, reuse, recycle) and the cd’s were long used but one day I found my bagel was exactly the circumference of the round case. Therefore, no matter what ingredient  I stack on, it would stay perfectly between the two bagel halves until I lifted it out. I rarely travel with bagels now, but I honestly don’t expect to have anything as perfect for transporting them again.

College was a time when I was all consumed in projects.  I constantly shifted my focus between my studies, theatre and student government activities.  However, it is also the time you make some of the most lasting relationships of your life. Kate was an early friend and we soon found ourselves passing in the arts center.  I was taking my first acting classes but Kate was already well entwined in design and management aspects of the theatre. It wasn’t until our second year of school that I fell headlong into all aspects of the theatre (other than the acting).  In my first college production, I found myself stage manager under Kate’s steady direction. I learned that we were the first ones there and the last ones to leave. I was already months into my fascination with cooking and I began to bring little snacks for Kate, soon we were spending more time together cooking outside of working.  Later we would both spend hours together in the design studio working on projects, shows and interspersed homework for sociology, psychology and biology.

To deal with the stress of college I ate and made others eat with me. It’s no wonder Kate could name you some of my best cakes, favorite soups and is the only person with a copy of my bread recipe.  Sometimes during long study sessions I had cakes to share, sometimes only granola bars and peanut butter but always we were in communion together.

It wasn’t until my last year, when I consummated my studies with the most ambitious senior thesis I probably could have managed, that Kate and I regualrly started to share bagels together.  As the final testament to my thesis, our goal was to put on a independent play that I had just researched and written. We ambitiously decided to turn one of our favorite places, Bob’s Underground cafe, into a bar for my show.  It was perfect immersion theatre in a space we wouldn’t have to decorate too much, or so we though. You have to realize, Kate is a superhero and equally ambitious and driven as me. Every meeting seemed to bring a new idea but each time we left believing it was all feasible.  In the end we spent the whole of our spring break painting the entire cafe, we built a bar, we hung lights and had a booth for the light cues, we brought in extra platforms to help the audience view and found more chairs that fit our cafe’s theme. We created a show in immersion with a very small team, a hodgepodge set of actors and the power of bagels and coffee from our conveniently, inconvenient set location in a cafe.  As I am writing this post, Kate reminds me of Bob’s bagels, simple peanut butter and jelly or some student favorites like cheese and salas.  Kate says to never underestimate a bagel, they can easily be built up or pared down and no matter where you are in the world you are, a bagel is probably a safe bet. “Even a bad bagel is probably still fine.” 

While I always look back and see what could have been better about my projects, I am enormously proud of what two young artists created with our heads and hearts together.  I will never forget Kate’s dedication to all the projects I have ever been excited about.  She is the definition of a best friend, and I am so proud to know her and continue to be part of her life.

Kate helped this project in more ways than one, but the biggest and most obvious thing she did was design the logo.  I told her I wanted a thyme sprig and the name Nik of Thyme, I gave a few ideas but said I wanted to see what she thought.  She created something straight forward, yet playful and I fell in love. Kate, thank you a million time over for years of designing and creating with me.  Sometimes it is hard to believe I have known you more than a decade, but each passing day I am happy I do. It is a pleasure to watch your work and see you continue to make art and grow in numerous ways.  Thank you for always being willing to help, you are truly the best.

It should be no surprise then that the first time I saw my College best friend since moving to Mexico we would reunite over bagels and cream cheese.  It was a perfect day, mid August, and breezy when Kate arrived in Illinois toting two bikes on the back of the car.  We sat at my dad’s small kitchen table and sliced into the everything bagels, after toasting them to a perfect golden brown and ate them that day simply with cream cheese.

No bagel is complete without cream cheese

Simple Vegan Cream Cheese

100 g cashews (soaked overnight in water)
125 g soft tofu (organic, if you can)
20 g coconut oil (completely liquid)
15 g fresh lime juice
10 g sugar or sweeter of choice
1/2 t salt

Process all of the ingredients until smooth, scraping down the sides.
Best served chilled.

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