By Josh Silver
Kugel has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Usually reserved for those special Jewish holidays with the family, my mom does it all: noodle kugel, potato kugel, carrot kugel. So last week after Erev Rosh Hashanah dinner with my family, I happily returned home with an extra large portion of left over noodle kugel (my favorite.) As I was showing this noodily delight to a friend of mine he asked me, “What is kugel anyway?”
I was completely stumped. My mouth opened automatically as if my brain thought it knew what to say but then nothing came out. How do you define something that takes so many different forms? I tried describing the kugel before me as “sort of a sweet casserole that’s not really a casserole but is made with noodles and cream” but as soon as I said you could also make it out of potatoes, he was just as confused as I was. That’s when I set out on a mission: to define kugel in all its forms.
I started where all Jews start when they have a question about food, by asking other Jews. This may have been the wrong course of action because every person I asked had a different answer. Not only did everyone have their own, individual mental picture of what kugel is based on the recipe their parents made, but all the conversations eventually devolved into people describing how their families’ kugel was better than everybody elses (the same thing happens when you bring up brisket so I don’t recommend it).
That’s when I turned to my trusty friend, the Internet:
Kugel (קוגל kugl,) is a baked Ashkenazi Jewish pudding or casserole, similar to a pie, most commonly made from egg noodles or potatoes, that at times made of zucchini, apples, spinach, broccoli, cranberry, or sweet potato. It is usually served as a side dish on Shabbat and Yom Tov.
So there’s the easy definition, but what’s the real definition to you? Doesn’t kugel mean something different for everyone? It’s not just a food, but a word for the way that food makes you feel. Let us know some of your kugel stories in the comments below.
I also found this great recipe online because let’s face it, I can’t just hand over my mother’s recipe to the world wide web.