About two months ago, Dori and I were talking and the subject of bagels came up. I stated gushing about how much I missed them (along with everything else edible back home) and she mentioned that one of her Australian friends had found a bagel shop in our neighborhood. “Where is it?” I asked. She didn’t know, and her friend couldn’t tell her the directions. All she knew was that it had just opened the week before and that they had cream cheese. Real cream cheese, imported from France. I walked away that night sad, envious, and hungry, but vowed to find this magical place if it was the last thing I did.
Two weeks later, Jason whatsapped me a photo of a half eaten bagel with the braggy note: “Soooo good! How’s the bush?” After throwing my phone at the bed and having a bit of a strop I texted back to demand where he got it. The same Australian friend had brought it to him. And then left the country. No he didn’t know the directions either. Foiled again!
A month passed. I moved away from Accra, Jason and Dori left for the UK for a month, and everything settled into a new normal routine. I had almost forgotten that Bagels existed as a food group when I found myself back in Accra to renew my Visa this morning. My mother’s voice played in my head:
“Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go and find that bagel shop and send the braggiest text ever to Jason and Dori.”
“Air fives Mom!” I thought to myself, and set to work to find my breakfast.
After some feverish googling, I found a link for one bagel place in East Legon. There was a phone number listed below, so I called.
“Tysons bagels, good morning” offered the voice on the other end of the line.
“It is a good morning! Do you have bagels?” I asked.
“…Yes” said the voice
“Awesome! How do I get to you from Madina?”
The voice proceeded to give me complicated directions. The parts I remembered were “go to American House, we’re past Forest Green Hotel.” The rest I figured the cabbie could figure out. Poor life choice on my part.
“Thanks a bunch, see ya soon!” I said, and hung up the phone. Thirty Seconds later I called back. “Forgot to ask, do you have cream cheese?”
“…Yes” said the voice.
“Excellent!” I hung up again, and ran out the door.
The outdated Facebook map (which had street names, even though everyone one knows that streets here don’t have names) claimed that bagels and cream cheese lay a mere 2.5 miles from the Top Herbal House. My bike (and my spare bike) are in Techiman, so I spoiled myself and hopped in a cab. “Take me to the Bagels!” I told the driver.
“What’s a bagel?” he asked.
I spent the next 40 minutes of us getting terribly lost trying to explain just how great Bagels are and how long it had been since I’d had one. My closest analogy was that it was like if he hadn’t eaten Kenke in a year. He said he didn’t like Kenke. There’s no pleasing some people. Eventually he got me where I needed to go, even if it meant we took several detours and asked for directions more than twice. I offered to buy him a bagel for his troubles. He politely declined, claiming he “didn’t know how” to eat them. More bagels for me!
As I bounced into the shop, something seemed off. There were baskets labeled with bagel flavors–Whole Wheat, Sesame, Plain, Cinnamon Raison–but THERE WERE NO BAGELS. I was about to pout and start walking home in defeat, when someone came out of the back room.
“Are you the girl who called about Bagels?”said the person in a voice I recognized from the phone.
“Yes! That’s me! But, where are they?”
“They’re just coming out of the oven now, do you want a tour?”
How could I say no? I got a tour of the facilities and then a fresh cinnamon-rasin bagel with extra cream cheese and a cup of coffee and a side of good conversation. It turned out that Silas the Bagel maker had lived in DC for 20 years where he learned the secrets of “proper jewish bagel making” and was starved for american conversation. We spent an hour talking development and politics until I realized I was officially late for work and had to dash. As I walked out the door, I reached for my phone. My full and happy stomach and my Father’s voice in my head reminded me what a blessing it is to occupy the moral high ground. I put the phone away.
It’s good to be back in Accra, at least for now.