Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Rate That Kugel!

Here's a kugel review by trombonist Jim Leff in which he describes his perspective on playing Orthodok/Hasidic weddings.
"The dark side of the current klezmer music craze is that a musician who's learned the style finds himself qualified to make plenty kesh playing Jewish weddings. I don't mean swanky affairs at Great Neck catering halls with chopped liver sculptures and toupeed high school band teachers warbling Wind Beneath My Wings; I mean the hard-core stuff, Orthodox and Hassids dancing sweaty ecstatic circles while the band blares a nonstop succession of identical-sounding oom-pah tunes in snakey D-minor. Same-sex dancing and long curly sideburns. Blow your brains out for six hours of cacophonous mayhem in exchange for enough kesh to pay half your rent: it ain't bebop, but it's hard to resist."
"And thus I found myself--stylishly tricked out in yarmulke and polyester tux--playing for a particularly frum (religious) crowd. They were too pious to drink much, though a bottle of Old Williamsburgh (I kid you not) Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky was passed among the elders."
Here's the part about the kugel. Based on his description, I'm guessing that this was at either the Continental or Concord Plaza.
"At the head of the dance floor, in a position of supreme authority, was a table bearing three large rococo silver trays. I watched, fascinated, as all attention came to focus on this setup. With a flourish, the top of one vessel was opened to reveal a kugel. The second lid was removed, kugel again. Third...kugel kugel kugel. There followed a feeding frenzy, as yours truly jumped off the bandstand to try to salvage a morsel amidst the kugelly commotion."
"These, in truth, were not great kugels, but that's not the point. Kugel is intrinsically a Craved Thing: potato, egg, salt, grease. That's four of the Major Food Groups; you simply can't go wrong."
"The Three Sacred Offerings had nearly been forgotten when, as we started another set, I detected the wafting aroma of fresh kugel. There was even more being brought out. Amazing."
"We later stood around the starchy relics, debating the merits of the second kugel (eggier) versus the much-loved fifth kugel (very dense), when a waiter, with the earnest sense of duty and pride of purpose of a rabbi carrying the Torah, presented yet another tray."
"I was deeply moved by this elevation of kugel--a dish far too homely to be served in restaurants or at less earthy soirees. My head spun at each new serving until I was overcome, thrown into such an emotional tizzy that I found myself screaming--from my spot between a horrified trumpeter and a bemused tenor saxophonist--"By Golly, I'm PROUD to be Jewish!" I was having one of those life-changing moments, catalyzed by the dizzying procession of Bottomless Potato Puddings."
I never thought I'd see a professional food critic review the fare at the low-rent Kosher catering halls. What's next… a review of the chopped liver platter at