I hated kugel growing up. It confused me. Slimy noodles, raisins, eggs, ambiguous looking slop (cheese? potatoes?) disguising themselves as a casserole. I didn’t get the concept of using ingredients for foods normally eaten for breakfast and lunch, for dessert. I like sweet things, but after my meal, not alongside it. Besides, what about kugel makes it Jewish? Is it its blend of conflicting tastes, a metaphor for the love-hate relationship people (oh, admit it) have towards Jews and the weird foods we eat? I just couldn’t get into it.
My picky eating habits used to drive my mother crazy. I didn’t know what was good for me. Was this a harbinger of what my habits would be like when I grew up? Including my selectivity (and bad judgment) choosing a mate? Is there even a connection?
My mother stopped pressuring me to eat kugel long ago, and so I had forgotten the word even existed (I avoid it at all temple kiddishes and Yom Kippur break-fasts)…
Until recently. A twenty-four-year old co-worker (not Jewish or familiar with our particular cuisine), started calling me Cougar. And then, the more comfortable he got around me, the name evolved. First to “Cougs,” and then finally, to “Cougel.”
He meant it as modified term of endearment, uttered casually and fondly. But little did he know what questions he had unleashed. Am I really a cougar? But worse, am I a pain in the ass, picky, conservatively raised, worried about what my parents think, Jewish Cougar?
Maybe the time has come for me to embrace my inner Cougel.