Sunday, October 2, 2016

Favorite Old Rosh Hashanah Posts, Again

My favorite Jewish New Year story is one I already posted two years ago on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. I suppose that just as we repeat the ritual of dipping apples in honey, saying the same annual blessings and making the same honey cake in more or less the same way, I feel it is not wholly inappropriate to post part of it here, again. (The complete version is in the link under the first sentence^.)
My mother was a permanent guest at our home every Friday and holiday.
In 2001, friends of my father and stepmother were visiting the bay area from Israel.
I didn’t know them well, and when they called, I asked them to come for Rosh Hashanah dinner. I figured that they could use a taste of home.
My mother was a Kugel fan. If you haven’t heard of kugel, let’s just say that it is a casserole of cooked-anything-at-all mixed with beaten eggs and seasonings. I had promised her a round kugel for Rosh Hashanah. Round, like all New Year dishes that symbolize the closing of circles.
I didn't make kugel often, so I set out to make the best. I had a mother to honor, Israeli guests, and an urgent need to respond to the disaster that had just struck our nation-- with the perennial Jewish celebration motto: They tried to kill us, we survived, LET’S EAT!
My mother dreamed of potato-kugel. So I grated and seasoned and mixed and mashed, pouring the mixture into a greased round dish and into a 375 degree oven. 
Then it occurred to me- the last time I made carrot-kugel, DH mentioned not once, but twice, how much he liked it. So I grated and mixed and added the cinnamon and brown sugar and to another round dish it went, also into the same oven.
DD came in and asked what I was making.
 “Kugel, for the New Year,” I said.
“Yum. I love noodle-kugel,” she said. Oops. I wasn’t thinking of her favorite. So I boiled egg noodles and mixed in the eggs, apple sauce and the raisins, and into the oven in yet another round baking dish went kugel number three.
It crossed my mind that having something green for the New Year was sort of mandatory. Think harvest, re-growth, life. Zucchini-kugel would have to serve that role. More grating, beating, mixing, pouring. The oven was almost at full capacity.
DS came in. With the resolute expression six-year-olds are so good at, he informed me that he doesn’t eat any of these kugels. In desperation I made the only kind I knew he would: chocolate-kugel. Not very traditional, but it was round and it was going to be irresistible. Think dark-chocolate not too sweet soufflĂ©, only this one stabilized with matzo meal so it doesn’t collapse.
 By then I was ready to collapse. 

Our guests arrived right after my mother. Introductions were made, and they complimented our table. I lit the holiday candles, and DD blessed the round challah. DS said the blessing over the fruit of the vine, (ours-wine, his and DD’s grape juice) and we said SHE-HEH-CHEH-YANU, the prayer of gratefulness for having arrived to this day. It had never meant more.
I opened the oven door and brought out the first. 
“Wow, kugel!” our guests exclaimed.
I went back and brought the second. 
“How nice, a kugel!” the wife said.
I was feeling positively giddy when I brought the third. 
“Ah, kugel,” I heard. It sounded a bit like a sigh.
Not done, I came in with the fourth. 
Another kugel?” said the husband.
I felt positively sheepish bringing in kugel number five. But it was chocolate; the only one DS would eat.
I suspect our guests from Israel thought they really had landed in Oz.
All right, folks— Let’s eat!

17 comments:

  1. Shana Tova, Mirka! What kind of kugel are you making this year? :-)

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    1. I was thinking zucchini, to get the "green" and the "round" and the "yummy" all in one...

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  2. I was blessed with an amazing Jewish grandmother who cooked many wonderful things, including her amazing potato-kugel and latkes. Just thinking about them makes me miss her. Thanks for sharing a taste of my childhood. : )

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    1. Jewish grandmas know their kugels...Moms (like me) still sort of do, too. But the hope their daughters and sons will is diminishing all the time. It's just not fancy or aesthetically exciting for the Millennials, who are heaps more sophisticated when it comes to food.

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  3. I'll take the chocolate kugel, please. You are quite the accommodating cook, my dear, to make something special for each person.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. "You are quite the accommodating cook..."
      That was then, the Year of the Kugel ;)

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  4. What a great story, Mirka! Didn't you have a kugel in one of your picture book stories? I think you could turn this one into a pb story, with your son having the punchline ending!

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    1. I could probably write a whole novel on kugels, though who will read it?

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  5. Just the other day my husband and I were talking, and I realized I knew so little about Jewish New Year. Now I know what kugel is! This sounds like how dinners sometimes go at my house too--something to please everyone means a lot of dishes!

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    1. I'm honored to contribute to Kugel-knowledge!

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  6. I hope you're enjoying the holiday. Holidays do seem to revolve around food, don't they?

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    1. To paraphrase a well known saying: The way to a person's heart is through a person's stomach...

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  7. Loved your story and happy to know what kugel is now,I'm sure they were all fantastic :)

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    1. I would like too,I love eating and good company:)

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  8. They all sound yummy to me! Yes please, I'll have some.

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