Dear Nick and Elyse

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Shirley Ellis doing the Name Game.

Dear Nick and Elyse (and Lori):

I saw your episode of Beyond the Tank. I am glad you decided to keep your name. My son and I have fond memories of missing the hole and scrunching up our napkins to mop up the cream cheese. For us, that’s part of the fun of a Bantam Bagel — that initial squirt of cream cheese in your mouth when you bite the hole. He likes the Cookies & Milk, while I prefer the French Toast.

It’s cliche, I know, but whenever the topic of naming comes up, so does that line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Taken out of context, it seems to imply that names do not matter. But as a part of the entire scene in the Capulet’s garden, it is an exploration of the power of names.

I wish you would have stopped us on the street and asked us about bantams. I would have told you that they were small chickens, named after a popular port city in Indonesia. I would have added that their small size makes them very popular pets and that there is an American Bantam Association that puts on competitions akin to a Westminster Kennel Club’s Dog Show for chickens.

One of the women you stopped on the street said “bantam” reminded her of books. That’s one of the things I thought of too when I first saw your sign on Bleeker. I have fond memories of the rooster’s silhouette on the spine of my book, as I curled on the couch or spread out on the floor of my bedroom with it. It was the Bantam Books logo.

I couldn’t find the origin story for Bantam Books, but have my doubts that American’s in the 1940’s were any more familiar with bantams than the 21st Century New Yorkers you interviewed for your episode of Beyond the Tank. However, once you think about it, it does make sense. Bantam Books popularized the paperback novel, which back then were smaller, lighter, easily portable versions of their standard hardcover originals. That’s what a Bantam Bagel is — smaller, lighter, easily portable versions of the traditional bagel.

The man on the street asked the wrong question. He asked passersby what a “bantam” was. He should have asked if they knew what a “Bantam Bagel” was and if they didn’t, he should have given them a taste. I understand Lori’s point about people’s hesitancy to try new things but not everyone is afraid. Have you ever had a Slider?

Up until 1921, no one had ever had a Slider. No one knew what a Slider was. In 1921, on the NW corner of First and Main, in Wichita, Kansas, Walt A. Anderson and Edgar Waldo A. Ingram opened the first White Castle burger restaurant. According to Wikipedia, their goal was to change the public’s perception of ground beef and the burger industry, which had been tarnished by Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. White Castle’s signature product is its smaller, square version of the traditional hamburger, the Slider. According to, since its introduction, the Slider has evolved to become its own sub-category of burger.

I like the compromise you reached: Bagel Stuffins by Bantam Bagels. I’m glad you are keeping your name. I don’t agree with Lori’s dismissal of your attachment to it as a simple matter of sentimentality. Towards to end of your Beyond the Tank story, Elyse said something about wanting to do what it takes to be with the “Big Boys.” It’s true that if you want to be in the same space as other larger food distributors, you will need to assimilate into their culture. In order to succeed in America, my parents, who immigrated from Hong Kong, had to become more proficient in English and adopt the norms of their new home. However, we still ate with chopsticks and spoke Cantonese at home, and every weekend we went to Chinatown for Dim Sum.

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