Whenever she came to visit us in Palo Alto, my grandma Mildred would make her incredibly delicious potato kugel. It served as a powerful magnet for my friends, who were on “kugel alert,” especially on Fridays, when she would make a fresh batch. My dear friend Heather Henriksen had a particularly close relationship with my grandmother, who would summon her to our house with just a few words: “Heather, I made kugel, come over, I saved you a corner.” The two of them would sometimes sit in the backyard kibitzing for hours, and later Heather would recount stories that some of us in the family had never heard ourselves.
One in particular has become the stuff of family legend. Mildred and my grandfather Jack Sussman, who died before I was born, lived a modest, hardworking life. Jack was a printing “jobber,” serving as a middleman for anyone needing triplicate receipts and business cards, and my grandmother worked as a bookkeeper.
Money was tight, and when they became engaged in 1933, an engagement ring was out of the question. As my grandma told Heather, on their 25th anniversary, they went out for dinner and, as he always did, Jack came around to help her out of the car on the passenger side. He opened the door, then promptly dropped to one knee, proffering a modest diamond ring.
“Mildred,” he said. “It’s been 25 years since we got married. Isn’t it about time we got engaged?” My grandmother’s special gift was just that: She had a special story, an inside joke, and a somehow endless supply of crispy kugel corners for those who wanted—and needed—them the most.
Serves 12. Active time: 25 minutes. Total time: 2 hours. From “SHABBAT” by Adeena Sussman, published by Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright @ 2023 by Adeena Sussman.
Bubbe’s Extra Crispy Potato Kugel
Serves 12. Active time: 25 minutes. Total time: 2 hours.
From “SHABBAT” by Adeena Sussman, published by Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright @ 2023 by Adeena Sussman.