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.
Any kind of kugel is eligible for entry -- noodle, potato, zucchini, sweet potato, etc. A panel of celebrity food judges, which will include Gourmet Magazine's New York restaurant critic Jonathan Gold and Gastronomica magazine's Darra Goldstein, will be on hand. The winner will receive a coveted blue ribbon. Other prizes will include restaurant vouchers and cookbooks.
"People can get really passionate about their kugel," said Aaron Paley, founder of Yiddishkayt Los Angeles. At a "board meeting, I asked, 'Where can you go to buy kugel?' and everyone said, 'Oh no, kugel is not something that you buy, kugel is something that you have to make!' Food is still a critical way that people connect to their Yiddish culture, so we thought that this would be a great way to reach out to the community."
Yiddishkayt Los Angeles' first Kugl Kukh-Off is co-sponsored by Valley Cities Jewish Community Center and the USC Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life. The event will take place on Sunday, Feb. 15, 1:30-5 p.m. at Valley Cities Jewish Community Center, 13164 Burbank Blvd., Sherman Oaks. For more information, call (323) 692-8151 or visit www.yiddishkaytla.org .