In "How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now" (Free Press, $35) -- which recently won the 2007 Jewish book of the year prize of the National Jewish Book Awards -- Kugel's interest is not only in what the text says, but in what a modern reader is to make of it.
It has a solid, stodgy presence on any dinner plate; it comes in as many flavors as Baskin-Robbins, but the most popular are noodle and potato. It can be served as side dish or, in some cases, a dessert. It can be sweet or savory, soft or firm, and though almost everyone can recognize a piece if placed in front of them, most would have a hard time defining what a kugel actually is.
The crude English definition of the Yiddish word is pudding, but that is not only an inadequate way to describe that square piece of -- well, kugel that graces so many Jewish meals but incorrect also, given that "pudding" has a distinct dessert connotation, of which a hearty piece of kugel often has no part.
No, kugel is definitely more than pudding, and how much more will be seen this Sunday, when kugel aficionados will gather to wow the cognoscenti of the food world with their kugel creations at Yiddsihkayt Los Angeles' Kugl Kukh-Off.
This year Rosh Hashana was on Sept. 6 and Yom Kippur will start Sunday night, Sept. 15. In between them, during the 10 Days of Repentance, was Sept. 11.