Behold the kugel: a calorie-packed classic Ashkenazi comfort food typically made from egg noodles or potato and baked till the top crisps golden brown. It may just be your bubbe’s signature dish. Perhaps you avoid it like the plague.
But at a South African tish, the word “kugel” has a very different meaning.
Since the 1970s, “kugel” has been slang for South African women with predilections for material goods and ostentatiousness. The word was originally used by an elder generation of South African Jews to describe Jewish women who eschewed traditional dress in favor of that of wealthy socialites.
The exact origins of the slang are uncertain, but given that kugel is home cooking disguised as a delicacy, it’s not too much of a leap.
With the Jewish population of South Africa at approximately 70,000, the South African version of “Jewish American Princess” is still in use.
According to Urban Dictionary, typical characteristics of kugels include: “very nasal accent, calling everyone ‘doll,’ intense Botox treatment,” and, of course, “driving fancy 4x4s but refusing to take them offroad.”
Watch a scene from Clueless, featuring the American kugel: