“For me, noodle kugel has special significance because it is the one thing that I get credit for,” said my maternal grandpa, who I call Zayde.
As you can tell from his daily eating routine, Zayde is not much of a chef. Though he can’t recall when my great-grandmother (and namesake) Goldie gave him the recipe, he remembers that he was never allowed to help make it as a kid. “I don’t know if that was because I was a boy, or just didn’t really do kitchen things,” he said.
But in his mind, the ability to make delicious noodle kugel is “the one thing that makes me normal,” he said. “If I’m going somewhere, I can bring something that is my own.” Zadie has brought the kugel to a friend’s house for Yom Kippur break fast and has made it for retirement parties and countless family get togethers.
Though it was loved and devoured at many a family event when Zayde was growing up, Goldie was the only one to ever make it. Her three sisters, Celia, Rochelle and Yeta, would never make it, knowing it was Goldie’s thing, Zayde explained.
“I always thought that it was really healthy, but now I’m looking at the ingredients… there’s raisins and a ton of sugar,” Zayde said.
Whenever Goldie served it, she would always say that there was “just a little bit of sugar.” Because “just a little bit” really meant three cups, my family and I always jokingly say that phrase as we heap sugar into our coffee or the baked goods we’re making.
In addition to the “little bit of sugar,” there is one more secret ingredient: pineapple. You would never guess that there was sweet canned pineapple in this dish, and Goldie always liked to keep the surprise ingredient a secret.
And of course, by “keep it a secret,” I mean that whenever she would serve the dish, she would always tell you about the pineapple as if she was letting you in on state secrets.
And Zayde is clearly still trying to keep that secret for his mom: When he was talking about it on the phone he went into a whisper, even though he had already told me about the pineapple and I knew that he was alone in his house.
Gustie Owens is a senior in high school at Horace Mann in Riverdale, New York. She is editor-in-chief of her school’s award-winning weekly newspaper, The Record.