Friday, September 30, 2005

My father guest-blogs: Webster's kugel

My dad is a lover of words and of Jewish food. Here he is telling a story combining kugel and crosswords. (He finishes them faster than you. Crossword puzzles, that is. Eating's not a race).

Many years ago I came upon a definition in a Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle that read "kugel ingredient." It was for a four-letter word. When I solved the puzzle the word turned out to be "suet." Now I've eaten a lot of kugel in my day and I'd never heard of anyone putting suet into a kugel so I wrote to Eugene Maleska, the Times' puzzle editor, and I told him that there is no way one uses suet in a kugel. He wrote back and asked me to check Webster's great big dictionary (which I found in my hospital library). Egad! Kugel was defined as a "suet pudding." So I did the only thing possible--I wrote to the Webster's people a gotcha letter: "Aha! I gotcha twice! First, kugel does not contain suet. Second, since it is a baked noodle dish, kugel is not a pudding at all."

Within days I heard from the Webster gentle folks and they agreed with me in part. They originally used the suet thing because their sources at the time when kugel entered the dictionary (early 20th Century) were German-Jewish-American cookbooks and apparently back then suet was included. Their more recent sources for the language of Jewish-American cooking included other recipe books and suet is nowhere in evidence. What really embarrassed them though was the designation of kugel as a pudding. They promised to correct the entry as soon as possible.

How often does one get to correct Webster's? Once was quite enough for me.


Blogger femme feral said...

I think your dad needs to write another letter! This time to manischewitz!!!

The SB and I saw this package for "noodle pudding" at Whole Foods today:

It was def. for kugel.

I'm so confused!!!

12:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kvetching is NOT a word. Good day, sir.

9:21 PM  
Blogger mzn said...

You contradict yourself, you know. Also, it's lazy and cowardly to leave rude comments anonymously.

9:34 PM  

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