Hi everyone! I’m sorry that I haven’t been posting much lately. I have had some challenges, like my new computer crashing a few weeks after I got it. (It’s back now and I am enjoying the challenge of switching away from the mac platform I’ve been using for over 20 years to a lenovo.) I’ve also been trying to make some progress on other large scale writing projects and learn a new-to-me program called Scrivener that is good for novel writing. But the blog has been calling to me: I had really wanted to cover Pi Day, or the terrific meal Chris and I had at the San Francisco branch of the Bel Campo Meat Company a few weeks ago and other epic topics that were floating around the edges of my mind, but the bigger projects and other life events just kept taking precedence. Going forward, I do hope to keep in better touch with folks.
With Passover starting tomorrow evening, however, I at least wanted to wish those who are celebrating it a happy holiday and supply some holiday-related tidbits. A week or so ago I had told a native Chinese co-worker who is married to a Jewish man and mentioned that she is struggling to embrace Jewish traditional foods that she ought to google kugel. I personally think kugel is a better gateway food than gefilte fish.
So here are a couple of etymology fun facts about kugel, (better known as hot dish if you are of Minnesotan ancestry) courtesy of the Wikipedia entry:
The name of the dish comes from the Middle High German kugel meaning “sphere, globe, ball”; thus the Yiddish name likely originated as a reference to the round, puffed-up shape of the original dishes (compare to German Gugelhupf—a type of ring-shaped cake). Nowadays, however, kugels are often baked in square pans.
South African slang usage
Among South African Jews, the word “kugel” was used by the elder generation as a term for a young Jewish woman who forsook traditional Jewish dress values in favor of those of the ostentatiously wealthy, becoming overly materialistic and over groomed, the kugel being a plain pudding garnished as a delicacy. The women thus described made light of the term and it has since become an amusing rather than derogatory slang term inSouth African English, referring to a materialistic young woman.
Who knew? Doesn’t it seem like iconic Jewish-American composers like Irving Berlin or Harold Arlen should have written some classic standards back in the 1930 like “Bring Me Kugel on the Double” or “When the Kugel’s Cooling on the Counter”? Arlen and Berlin had other cultural fish to fry, I know, writing some of the most well-known, best-selling songs of the 20th century (and some of them about Christmas) but I can kind of hear the instrumental versions that would have followed those two suggested tunes…
My sister makes the really good potato kugel from my Aunt Esther’s recipe. I will have to follow up and post the recipe at a later date. I’ve never made it myself. Apparently, Martha Stewart makes a mean kugel and her recipes are up on the internet. I never loved noodle kugel with its sweet cheese custard base confusing me when I was looking for savory instead; but once in a while when the mood strikes me and it hits me just right I find noodle kugel pretty delicious. Still, at this time of year it’s a good time to get out the pyrex and try your hand at some veggie-based kugelmass.
Wishing everybody fun gatherings and festive meals and a happy springy holiday!