Today is Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish religion. For the uninitiated, some talking points:

  • Today you ask God to forgive you and he/she always does – even if you are begging forgiveness for the exact same list of sins you offered up last year. (At least that’s what I’m betting on).
  • You fast on this day to mark the solemn nature of the occasion. Typically you gorge yourself the night before which never helps; no matter how much brisket you eat, you’re still STARVING at 8:30 a.m. the next morning.
  • We end the holiday with a meal called “Break Fast” (not “breakfast” — say it like two words) which requires convening at the normal dinner hour of uh… 4:00 p.m. to enjoy a host of yummy dairy and fish items: bagels, cream cheese, blintzes, lox, whitefish and of course…. Kugel.

For a Jew, Kugel is a lot like pornography. You can’t exactly define it but you know it when you see it. And it doesn’t help that there are countless types of kugel – usually associated with the person who always made it, which brings me to my story.

To celebrate Break Fast, my family is assembling at my father’s house. He is, of course, getting “a tray” of the fishes, bagels and spreads above. I offered to bake a kugel. It is one of the more labor intensive contributions so nobody fought me for it. So I planned on making my “Mom’s kugel” which is actually a HUGE family favorite because it tastes like cheesecake. Cheese cake for dinner? Enough said.

But my Dad and I were discussing the kugel earlier this week and he flat out asked subtly hinted that he wanted me to make “Mom-Mom Mabel’s kugel” (“you know with the apples and raisins”). This, my friends, is an entirely different kugel to which I do not have the recipe. I believe it could have been buried with Mom-Mom in 2006. Sure -I could have said no to Dad – but I didn’t for two reasons:

1) I miss Mom-Mom-Mabel and what a fitting tribute it would be to totally mangle her kugel for my entire family.

2) I have something to prove. You see, several years ago, I offered to bring the kugel and chose to make Mom’s recipe. But because I have “other gifts”, I forgot to add the sugar, which it turns out is kind of important if you don’t want the kugel to taste like a cheesecake for diabetics. “Kugelgate” as it is now known will live in my family’s hearts and minds forever unless I can redeem myself.

So last night after we cleaned up from dinner, I embarked upon the triple lindy of Jewish culinary acrobatics. I simultaneously made two kugels at once – Mom’s and Mom-Mom Mabel’s.

“Daddy, what is Mommy doing in the kitchen..with ingredients…and electricity?”


I had called my sister-in-law Beth for a recipe that could pass for Mom-Mom Mabel’s kugel. This was fortunate in two ways. First, she had a recipe that did not include verbs I did not understand. And two, she quipped about a friend of hers who accidentally called a “kugel” a “kegel” to which she dead panned, “Yeah, not exactly the same thing”. This threw me into hysterics for the rest of the evening, almost rendering me unfit to cook. Fun!

So how does it end? I baked two kick-ass kugels while doing kegels (not really but I couldn’t resist). I know the kugel my dad is getting won’t be exactly like his Mom’s. (I know this because for years we kids suspected that Mom-Mom Mabel sprinkled untraceable amounts of Metamucil in everything she cooked, sending us all running to the bathroom within 30 minutes after eating. And I didn’t do that.) But I hope everyone likes it.

And, if I’m lucky, maybe some day my boys will ask their children to make Grandmom Emmy’s kugel for them (“you know, the one that tastes like diabetic cheesecake?”).


Mom-Mom Mabel Kugel (left); Mom Kugel (right)

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