“Raisins! Add lots of raisins!! No raisins. Don’t add any raisins!!”
This is typically how holiday meal planning begins in our house when it comes to making KUGEL (koog-uhl? kug-guhl?). There are many varieties of kugel, though quite often they are made with either noodles (Noodle Kugel) or potatoes (Potato Kugel).
Now when it comes to kugel, it’s practically in a sacred category of its own and in my family you’re either on team KTR (Kugel Team Raisins) or you’re on team KTNR (Kugel Team No Raisins). It’s a fierce rivalry. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself so let me back up….
Many of the meaningful foods served during our holidays are sweet (ahem, like raisins – YUM – guess you know which kugel team I’m on), helping to ensure a “sweet new year.” Other sweet foods include apples and honey, honey cake and dates. Dipping apples and honey (Tapuach Bedvash) never gets old!
Every year around this time we are grateful to be together and for the wonderful meal; however, we always devour the noodle kugel as if we were eating it for the very first time AND as if this was the only time we were allowed to have it all year!
As our holiday meals progress, both kugel teams (KTR and KTNR) are content because (ultimately) the only fair way to settle things is to have TWO kugels – one with raisins and one without. It might not seem complicated to make two different kugels but unfortunately our teams are not even numbers wise, so this does mean wonky proportions per person. We take kugel as seriously as we take the first kickoff of the college football season!
During the meal we always talk about how delicious the kugel tastes and that we should REALLY make it more often. And then another year rolls around kugel-less and, despite how many times everyone says “next year we’re only going to make ONE KIND of kugel,” we always cave and end up with two.
Now just because peace has been made between the kugel teams, family harmony being a priority (You cut the turkey without me!), that doesn’t mean that we stop talking about it. I mean come on, it wouldn’t be Jewish holidays, and we wouldn’t really be Jewish!, if we didn’t go on and on about why raisins are a necessity in kugel or why raisins completely change the consistency and so on and so on. And after we have all belabored our points, at the end of the meal one thing we all CAN agree on is: Oy vey, we ate way too much kugel!
A man calls his Rabbi and says
“Rabbi I have a problem”
When the mostly playful kugel sparring is complete and we’re stuffed to the gills, we sit and listen to family tell the SAME jokes. Every. Single. Year…
A man calls his Rabbi and says, “Rabbi I have a problem.” The Rabbi replies, “What’s the matter?” The man says “My team plays at the same time as Rosh Hashanah holiday services. I don’t know what to do”. The Rabbi thinks for a minute and says “No problem. You can always record it”. The man responds excitedly, “I didn’t know you could record the service on tv!” (Ba Dum Bump).
All kug…kidding aside, it has been and still is an incredibly difficult time as we continue to navigate our very unsettling world. The high holidays allow us a dedicated space, a time to really look deep inside and choose how we can be our best self, what we want to do better and how we want to move forward in the coming year. This time of year always reminds me just how fast life goes by.
I hope that everyone can practice being kind to themselves, to others and to enjoy the little things…like kugel…with raisins!
As we all reflect and come together with family and friends, in person and virtually, I’m compelled to ask – which side are you on?!
Michelle Glick is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about a variety of topics including culture, wellness, sports, cuisine, education, fitness, humor and diversity.