Bagels are a type of yeast-risen roll originating in Europe. They are most closely associated with European Jewish cuisine. There are many stories regarding the origin of bagels, but they probably originated in the late 17th century in Poland or Austria, and spread to other parts of Eastern Europe. As Ashkenazi Jews immigrated to the U.S., they brought many food items with them, including the bagel. It has since become a very popular American food item.
A bagel is always round, with a hole in the middle. The dough is risen, then boiled, then baked, giving its unique texture. In New York, bagel stores were originally strictly unionized, and a bagel was very specifically defined as to weight and content. Since that time, the definition of bagel has liberalized significantly. There are large regional differences in American bagels, despite the proliferation of chain stores.
In the U.S., the bagel is most typically a breakfast food, but is eaten at any time of day. It is classically served with cream cheese, and various types of smoked fish are often added. Common types of bagel include: