The day that I decided to get sober is still kind of a mystery to me. I mean, I was so damaged from the previous night’s (month’s… year’s…) debauchery that I could barely see straight. My dad called in the morning and struggled to tell me how worried he had become. I cried and screamed and walked like a crazy person through the streets of New York asking myself how I had gotten so out of control.
Then I did the strangest thing of all…
I made a kugel.
I don’t know how the idea of a Jewish noodle pudding got into my head, but somehow it became the backbone of my first month or two of sobriety. I no longer cared about calories or health issues, I just needed to fill the hole that had been left when I took the booze away. Kugel filled it. It’s not like kugel was a regular item in my kitchen either. I had maybe made one or two kugels in my life. But when I got sober, I walked to the store like a zombie; filling my basket with wide egg noodles, sour cream, cottage cheese, etc.
During that first couple of weeks, I bet I made five kugels. It just felt right. Whenever I had a moment of uncertainty- that terrifying new feeling of “What am I going to do with myself now?”- I just put more water on for the next batch of noodles. It’s crazy I know, but when people ask me how I got sober, I always want to respond honestly, “I made kugel”. Before I dealt with reality, before I started talking it out, before anything else: I made kugel. I call it “step half”.
This past week has been a tough one. My dog Dexter has been shlumping along at half speed for the past month or two and the vet discovered that he was incredibly anemic and then found a tumor on his spleen. Dexter has been with me through thick and thin. He has been my only companion for some of the toughest moments in my life. His presence makes me present. I would do anything for him.
When the doctor told me that my best friend’s time is winding down, I felt as though a bell jar had lowered over me. Numbness, fear, sadness, anger pumped through my system like a transfusion of bewilderment. When the vet told me Dex would be spending the night alone in the hospital, my zombie brain leaped into a mode it had not been in for 4 ½ years. Off to the supermarket I trod for wide egg noodles, sour cream, cottage cheese, eggs, butter…
Kugel doesn’t make it all better but it’s just the right combination of sweet, carby, eggy, creamy goodness to distract from the darkest of moments. Dexter is home now, looking better than he has in months. We are savoring every second we have together for as long as we have. I’m hoping that I don’t need to make another kugel any time soon- but it’s nice to know my zombie brain knows how.
Now, I don’t put raisins in my kugel because I think the extra sweetness is unnecessary. I know this is sacrilege to some – so I say do as you will. You would add ½ to ¾ cup of raisins to the mix.
- 12 ounces (1 package) wide egg noodles
- 16 ounces small curd cottage cheese
- 16 ounces sour cream
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 6 eggs, whipped
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Bring large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and parboil the noodles for about 5 minutes. Drain.
- In a large bowl, combine the cottage cheese, sour cream, sugar, salt and melted butter. Add the whipped eggs, vanilla and cinnamon. Stir in the noodles and then pour mixture into a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Bake for 40 minutes, then cover with foil and bake an additional 20 minutes.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.