There’s nothing that Jews like to talk about more than the terrors of disease and who in the community is dying. Death is both our greatest fear and our favorite dinner party topic. Cancer, heart failure, diabetes…if it can’t kill, it’s really not that interesting to us. And yet, at every traditional function we serve overflowing buffet tables of food that promotes these very diseases. It’s as if we’re secretly baiting the weak of will-power so we will have someone to talk about at the next high holidays.
“Did you hear about Sadie Moskowitz?…I saw her last year at the Steinberg’s break fast. Three pieces of kugel. That’s right. Three. We all stood there in disbelief as she did it. Next morning she woke up with a huge hematoma on her neck. They cut it open and found hair, bits of teeth and the eyeball of her labradoodle. A week later we were all at her funeral. And what did they serve at the shiva lunch to follow? Kugel. Let me tell you, it was delicious.”
Jewish food is not for the faint of heart. Literally. We know of the dangers of brisket, but kugel is the silent killer. Kugel lures you in. It’s served on the side of the main course so psychologically you convince yourself it’s a vegetable. Each delicious sweet forkful beckons another bite. And since you know the tempting evils of the dessert table is still another 15 minutes away, another piece of kugel doesn’t seem so bad.
That is because most well-meaning Jews do not have any idea of what goes into a kugel. Well I do. Sour cream. Heavy cream. Cups of sugar. But to NOT eat kugel is like not kissing your grandmother hello. To not eat kugel is to not partake in tradition. It is to dismember from the tribe. To insult Moses. To go home hungry.
Finally, here’s an indulgent kugel that won’t kill you.