The name of the dish comes from the Germanic root meaning "ball" or "globe", thus the Yiddish name likely originated as a reference to the round, puffed-up shape of the original dishes (compare to German Gugelhupf — a type of ring-shaped cake), however nowadays kugels are often baked in square pans. There is a common association of this word to the Hebrew k'iygul ("as a circle"), but this is a folk etymology.
The first kugels were made from bread and flour and were savory rather than sweet. About 800 years ago, cooks in Germany replaced bread mixtures with noodles or farfel. Eventually eggs were incorporated. The addition of cottage cheese and milk created a custard-like consistency which is common in today's dessert dishes. In Poland, Jewish homemakers added raisins, cinnamon and sweet farmer's cheese to noodle kugel recipes. In the late 19th century, Jerusalemites combined carame]ized sugar and black pepper in a noodle kugel known as "Jerusalem kugel," which is a commonly served at Shabbat kiddushes and is a popular side dish served with cholent during Shabbat lunch.
Kugels are a mainstay of festive meals in Ashkenazi Jewish (Jews of Eastern European descent) homes, particularly on the Jewish Sabbath and other Jewish holidays. Some Hasidic Jews believe that eating kugel on the Jewish Sabbath brings special spiritual blessings, particularly if that kugel was served on the table of a Hasidic Rebbe.
While noodle kugel, potato kugel, and other variations are dishes served on Jewish holiday meals, matzo kugel is a common alternative served at Passover seders which is adjusted to meet passover kosher requirements.
A similar Belarusian dish is potato babka.
South African slang usage
Amongst South African Jews, the word "kugel" was used by the elder generation as a term for a young Jewish woman who forsook traditional Jewish dress values in favor of those of the ostentatiously wealthy, becoming overly materialistic and over groomed, the kugel being a plain pudding garnished as a delicacy. The women thus described made light of the term and it has since become an amusing rather than derogatory slang term in South African English, referring to a materialistic young woman. 
- ↑ Kugels. Mimi's Cyber-Kitchen Recipes - Your First Stop for Food on the Web.
- ↑ Allan Nadler, "Holy Kugel: The Sanctification of Ashkenzaic Ethnic Food in Hasidism", in Leonard Greenspoon, ed., Food & Judaism Creighton University Press, 2005), ISBN 9781881871460, pp. 193-211.
- ↑ "The Art of the South African Insult"
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