Sisterhood Blog

Confessions of a Cocky Kugl Champion

By Rachel Rosmarin

  • Print
  • Share Share
Rachel Rosmarin

See this trophy? Other than academic achievement awards in school, this is the first contest I’ve ever won in my life. And I won it for Kugl.

My mom and I planned to enter the third quadrennial Kugl Kukh-Off, put on by Los Angeles cultural organization Yiddishkayt at the Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center, as soon as we heard about it last month. The event sounded like a curiosity not to be missed, and inspired a slew of questions. Kugl taking center stage in the heart of this trendiest of Angeleno enclaves? Would I witness the birth of the next Williamsburg, where hipsters intermingle with Hasids? And, wait, Silverlake has a JCC? I thought I might even write about the spectacle for this here blog. But never did I imagine that I’d emerge victorious. I am now the reigning People’s Choice Kugl champion until my title is contested in 2016.

Okay fine, I’ll come clean. That’s all lies. I totally imagined winning.

The truth is, in 2009 I had the opportunity to sample a Kugl that was — I was told — baked according to the recipe of “the winner” of 2008’s second quadrennial Kugl Kukh-Off (a competition in which I later learned there were 10 different winners for various categories). Well, let me just say this: Either the cook attempting to replicate that winning recipe botched the job or the recipe itself was sub-par, because I knew when I tasted it three years ago that if given the opportunity, I’d have a good shot at the title. When I saw the Facebook announcement for the contest this year, I sprang into action. I recruited my mother and confirmed my grandmother’s Lokshn Kugl recipe, but there was no need — we’d each baked it dozens of times. It is traditional, and it is perfection. And it doesn’t contain wretched cottage cheese. Feh! This Kugl tastes as much as possible like the Kugl my grandmother ate as a girl growing up in a tiny Polish village.

As soon as I saw the entry form for the contest, I knew exactly what might thwart us. On it was an option for — in addition to sweet and savory, noodle, potato and matzoh — a creative kugl category. And if I know Los Angeles, I know people will vote for the quirky, funny, outlandish option when given the opportunity. This is the state that elected the Governator, after all.

On the day of the competition, when I dropped my precious cargo off at the tasting room, I saw that there were a total of twelve contenders, and that three prizes would be awarded (Best In Show/People’s Choice, Judge’s Choice, and Runner Up People’s Choice). Members of every entering team got to vote, but non-baking would-be judges had to pay to cast a ballot. The masses lined up at noon, and tiny tasting cups of each Kugl were available for two hours — or while supplies lasted. Naturally, I thought my family’s recipe was supreme in the sweet/dairy/noodle category. But the crowd seemed to gather around the unconventional mushroom and goat cheese Kugl that just happened to be labeled as number one on the tasting table. I also thought some voters might be swayed by the cleverly named “Putting the Kartofl Before the Horse” potato Kugl. Ultimately, 79 ballots were cast.

My mom and I have baked this Kugl together several dozens of times. We’re like a well-oiled machine; for break-the-fasts, for Shavuos, for shivas we can whip up a Kugl in less than an hour and we always have the ingredients on hand. She couldn’t stick around for the awards ceremony because she had to get home to start prepping for our Hanukkah party. So, though she wasn’t there when our team was proclaimed the winner (both of our names were read aloud as the members of the winning team), I texted her immediately to let her know we had taken the prize.

Me: We won! Mom: No. Me: Yes! Mom: Omg! Speech, speech!

As I sat awkwardly in a preschool chair and waited for the awards ceremony, I listened to Cindy Paley — a favorite songstress of my childhood — belt out Yiddish classics like “Oy Khanike, Oy Khanike” and “Tumbalalaike” to overtired children who’d spent the day at a Hanukkah festival complete with a petting zoo and face painting station. My palms started to sweat.

Finally, the winners were announced. Jill Burrows’ mushroom goat cheese Kugl took the runner-up award (phew!). Next, Josh Karbelnig took home the Judge’s choice award (it turned out he came in second place in the sweet category in 2008 — most improved!).

Would it be completely egomaniacal to admit that at this point I knew I had it in the bag? In the end, it appears that I won by a margin of about eight votes, which means several more people voted for my Kugl than just my parents and my boyfriend. A sheynem dank, Los Angeles, for surprising me with your good taste. If you’d like to see for yourself what the fuss is all about, give my Nana’s cream cheese-based recipe a whirl. It can be found here. I don’t know whether or not I bested 2008’s Best In Show winner, but if you think you can do better, bring it. I’ll see you in 2016.

Rachel Rosmarin’s Grandma’s Kugl Recipe: 5 eggs 8 oz. cream cheese 4 oz. sour cream 6 oz. milk 3/4 cup sugar 12 oz. egg noodles 1 stick salted butter Cinnamon

Blend first 5 ingredients in blender. Cook noodles, drain and rinse them, put them back in pot and add butter. Let it melt till it’s dissolved. Lightly grease a pan, pour buttery noodles into pan, pour blended mixture evenly on top, then sprinkle as much cinnamon as you want on top. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: rachel rosmarin, kugl kukh off, kugl, jewish women, jewish food, food, sisterhood

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love.
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.