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Meatless Monday: I’m not cheap, I’m just Kugel

I’ve written in the past about growing up Jew-ish and how Judaism is not just a religion, and it isn’t a race, it’s a culture.  Now despite how I will protest a million times over about how you can’t look Jewish—there definitely is a stereotypical “Jewish” look; it’s wrong but it does exist.  Unfortunately it is a stereotype that even Jews perpetuate.  I look like the classic shiksa; blonde hair, blue eyes and a nose that doesn’t resemble a bird beak all seem to invalidate my Jew card at times.  It is frustrating to hear people say “but you don’t look Jewish” to me but it’s ten times worse when it’s another Jew who does it.   (I think this happens more with Jews than in the geek world even)  One guy in college, who knew me for four years, saw me at Hillel, knew I dated a boy in the Jewish frat and was in the Jewish sorority, still turned to me one day in shock and said it.  And frankly I’m one of the lucky ones.  I’ve got the standard western idealized look—so I get considered to be like an ideal version of physical assimilation.  But there are so many people who don’t look “Jewish”—and who have probably gotten shit for it worse than I ever did. There are a number of Jewish stereotypes.  Jews are greedy.  Jews are in control of all the money.  Jewish boys are whiny.  Jewish girls are demanding and spoiled.  Jews are smart.  Jews are all doctors or lawyers or rabbis. Jews are survivors. I think that one stereotype is the reason why I found myself connected so strongly to this culture.  True my mom never kept me from it, but like I said in the past, we were a fairly Jewish household.  We didn’t really go to temple and when it came to religion I was more likely to call myself atheist (or for a year I’d probably say wiccan) than Jewish.  But the cultural pull was there and knowing that I came from people who could survive some of the most horrific crimes of the 20th century, well I think it helped me when I faced my own struggles in life.  I knew that if people I came from could survive things that should only ever have been imagined in fictional horror stories, I could get through middle school.  Right? But then there are all those jokes, all the jabs, all the misunderstandings about Judaism.   I think sometimes I actually hear more of them when people find out I am Jewish.  Like now they can make jokes about it and nudge nudge, I won’t mind because I “pass” and can laugh at it.  I’m not sure if that makes any sense but that’s how it feels.  For example I don’t usually hear jokes about Jews being cheap until AFTER someone finds out I’m Jewish.  Then suddenly any time I find a way to cut costs I’m being a good Jew—eh, eh? I wonder if other people who “pass” have experienced this.  Do you find yourself hearing more or fewer jokes about your culture when people know you belong?  Does shattering their stereotypes work out favorably or just cause awkward pauses?  Is it worse when it’s “outsiders” who find out you are part of a culture they don’t know or understand or is it worse when people who you should share a bond with find you odd too? One stereotype, definitely true in this case, is that Jewish food is pretty heavy.  Oh man is it ever.  I mean Kugel—potato or noodle—is full of dairy and eggs and fat and starch.  That’s what makes it sooooo good.  I’m a girl who likes to flip expectations and stereotypes on their heads.  Enter my super stealthy, healthy kugel.  It’s high in protein, surprisingly light and while it’s not carb free, it avoids relying on empty white starches.  It’s also vegan—but since it uses soy and fava bean flour it’s not going to be kosher for Passover in some homes.  I whipped it up and took it into work and while almost no one knew what the frak a kugel was—let me tell you having to explain it for the sixth time made me regret not just calling the damn thing a casserole—but everyone who tried it took seconds. Or thirds.  Hell some people were eating it out of the pan.

Stealthy Healthy Kugel

Olivia Original – Vegan and Gluten Optional

  • 1-1 ½ large heads cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 1 package silken tofu (16 ounces)
  • 3 Tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 2 leeks, sliced white and light green parts
  • 1 cup finely diced shallots (if none use a sweet onion)
  • ½ cup ground, toasted almonds
  • ½ cup fava bean flour
  • 1 bunch chopped fresh parsley (plus 1 Tbsp for topping)
  • 1 bunch chopped fresh dill (plus 1 Tbsp for topping)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 4 Tbsp matzo meal (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prep a 9×13 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Steam your sliced cauliflower for about 15 minutes until soft and can be “mashed” with a potato masher.  Set aside to cool. In a large skillet heat 2 Tbsp of the oil and sweat your leeks and shallots for about 10 to 12 minutes.  You don’t want to sauté them—you want to get as much of the sweet flavor out without browning them too much.  Once the shallots are translucent set these aside. In the bowl of a food processor or in a blender, completely puree the tofu until it is smooth.  Mash into the cauliflower—this can also be done in the processor. Turn out the mixture into a large bowl and by hand stir in the leeks, onion and fava bean flour.  Stir in the parsley, dill, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Lightly brush down the baking dish with a little bit of the oil and spread out your mixture inside the dish. To make the topping: toss the matzo meal*, almonds, reserved herbs and last Tbsp of oil together.  Add a little salt and pepper to taste as needed.  Spread over and lightly pat into your kugel to make sure it “sticks” to the kugel.  I didn’t do this and a lot of my mixture was loose—OOPS.  Next time…. Bake the Kugel for about 30-40 minutes until set and the top is beginning to brown.  If it looks like it is browning too much then cover loosely with foil.  Let cool to lukewarm before serving but this dish is good anytime.  It makes for an excellent bake ahead dish—it works for breakfast, lunch or dinner and since there’s no dairy it is entirely picnic friendly.  It’s definitely now in my potluck rotation because it’s so easy to travel with. *Omit the matzo meal if you want to be fully gluten free but I like adding a little because there is just something about the flavor of matzo that is essential to making this taste like kugel to me.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Bel-Rand #

    For me, I’d say that my experience is both similar and different. This is partly because Sweden, while full of many open minded people, does not have the same “melting pot”-history that the US does when it comes to immigration. Up until the late 80’s, even Stockholm was VERY homogenous.

    That has changed over the last few decades, but me being an Afroswede has definitely meant growing up and having to answer (mostly well-meaning) questions such as “Where are you really from?”, “So you are born here?”, not seldom followed by probing questions about how involved with arabic culture/religion/language I am.

    Other times I am considered completely Caucasian and that has meant being around people who very comfortably display their everyday racism, in a way they probably wouldn’t have if I had been more prominently Arab-looking.

    Friends of mine have been making pyramid or pharaoh or sphinx-jokes for as long as I can remember, and that I am fine with. Jokes are jokes and as long as they are not obviously meant to insult the african/arab culture, I personally dont mind it. But my mixed breed has meant being around more openly displayed racism than I otherwise would, and that can be very scary at times.

    March 3, 2014
  2. When I initially left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new
    comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the exact same comment.
    There has to be a way you can remove me from that service?
    Thanks a lot!

    July 20, 2014

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