The Kugel


Photo credit: Morguefile831314117088

“I tell you Esther Cowell’s the quintessential Kugel, Avi, laughing and flirting with the Vichy like a woman of ill repute. Just look at those clothes, how the neckline dips. Is that the dress of a modest Jewish woman?”

“Be reasonable, Moshe. There are so few of us who live on the island. Who does she have to look to as an example?”

“Who did her namesake look to? I tell you, if the German fascists had their way, she’d have had four million Jewish examples living here, exiled from Europe by that paskudnik Hitler.”

The two older Jewish men sat at a small table outside of Yoshi’s Cafe sharing a cup of Robusta in the mid-morning sun as they watched the young woman in the company of two of the Vichy entering the hotel across the street.

“Do you think they even know she’s Jewish, Avi?”

“Does she know, Moshe?”

They both chuckled unaware she could hear them. Everyone believed she was a collaborator seduced by ill-gotten wealth and attention, but the intelligence she was gathering would be invaluable to South African and British troops when they invaded and liberated Madagascar next month.

I wrote this for the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner Challenge for 2017 – Week #52. As with other similar challenges, the idea is to use the image above to inspire the creation of a small story no more than 200 words in length. My word count is 194.

I looked at the photo of the dish being removed from the oven and wondered what I was going to do. Hanukkah has come and gone and that didn’t look like latkes (potato pancakes). However, it could pass for Kugel. That said, what kind of story could I write about a traditional Jewish potato and egg casserole?

I read through the information at Wikipedia and discovered “Kugel” is also a South African derogatory slang term for a young Jewish woman who has forsaken “traditional Jewish dress values in favor of those of the ostentatiously wealthy, becoming overly materialistic and over groomed.”

I defaulted to World War Two and wondered about the possibility of a Jewish woman posing as a Fascist collaborator in South Africa only to discover that the country entered the war on the side of the Allies (although the history is complicated). Then I found out that (relatively) nearby Madagascar was under the control of the Vichy French at that time, and that South African troops aided by the British liberated Madagascar in 1942 preventing the Japanese from capturing it.

Traditionally, Madagascar had only a small Jewish population established in the 19th century when France colonized an island, but they didn’t form a cohesive community. Also, in 1940 the Nazis hatched The Madagascar Plan which was the idea of relocating four million European Jews to the island, but it fell through.

Oh, Paskudnik or paskudnyak is a Yiddish insult meaning “A revolting, disgusting, evil person.” Also, Robusta is a coffee found in Madagascar in modern times, though I have no idea if it existed in the 1940s.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to


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