Friday, February 19, 2010

Debi: What do you take to a potluck?

Our synagogue is hosting a potluck dinner tonight for families of second graders. They requested vegetarian dishes with no nuts. As a vegetarian family, that's a slam-dunk for us -- most of our recipes would fit the bill -- but I asked our resident second-grader what she wanted to bring.

"Kugel!!!" she squealed. "The APRICOT kugel!"

Kugel is a traditional Eastern European casserole, and usually refers to the noodle-based variety, though at Passover time, people make potato or spinach kugels (yuck). I always thought all noodle kugels were sweet, but recently I was proven wrong. A few weeks ago, we went to another potluck for Ronni's elementary school (a regular old public school), and all parents were asked to bring a dish that represented their ethic heritage. I brought "the APRICOT kugel!," but it seemed all the Jewish families (5 or 6 of us) had the same idea, and it became The Night of the Many Kugels. I peeked at all of them, and one family had indeed made a savory kugel. I'd never heard of such a thing, but that was how their family always made them. Live and learn!

Our apricot kugel is a special thing, though. The recipe comes by way of my grandmother, my dad's mother, who died when my dad was only twelve. I never met her, obviously, and my grandfather remarried a year after she died, so by the time I came along, there wasn't anything of hers that my father could share with me aside from her name. I was named Deborah because she was named Dorothy -- sharing the first initial is a typical way of naming a child in honor of someone who has passed away.

So how, you might ask, do I have Grandma Dorothy's apricot kugel recipe?

Well, my dad's cousin was cleaning out some drawers one day, more than 50 years after my grandmother died, and found two index cards with recipes on them. Another cousin identified the handwriting as my grandmother's and immediately sent them to my father. My father scanned them and sent them to me. I made one adaptation to the apricot kugel recipe (used soy milk instead of whole milk), but otherwise have kept Grandma's recipe exactly as is. I haven't tried the other recipe yet, but I don't know if I even have to! This one is perfect. It is the comfort food to end all comfort foods. Just the smell of it in my house is enough to make all of us sigh happily, tuck our feet under our bottoms on the couch, and smile.

This spring, my mom declared me an accomplished enough cook to bequeath me one other beloved remnant of my grandmother's life as a housewife and mother: her tin measuring cup. I can't remember how my parents came to be in possession of it, but now it is mine. It seems wrong to use anything else for preparing this recipe.

Good sabbath, everyone.

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