Best. Passover. Ever.

A few months ago, I was harassing my friend Natasha about how I’ve known her for over 15 years and I’ve never been invited to her family’s house for Passover Seder.

“That’s not true! I’ve definitely invited you over!”

“Oh really? When?”

“Dozens of times!”




“That’s terrible! How is that possible? Well, you’ll have to come to our house for Passover this year.”


Side note: I’m pretty sure she has invited me before, but sometimes it’s important to lie to get your point across.

Last night on the train ride to her parents’ house, I spent the entire time researching Passover on the most reliable source I could find: Wikipedia.

“Will your dad be wearing a white robe?”

“Robe? Like a bathrobe? What are you talking about?”

“No, it says here that the leader of Seder wears a white robe.”

“Hmm. I’ve never heard of that. I think that’s wrong.”

“But it’s on Wikipedia!”

“No, he will not be wearing a robe.”

“Will there be a lamb shank?”


“Will we talk about the plague of boils?”


“Will we eat bitter herbs?”


“Will we eat parsley?”


“Will we dip it twice?”


“Will your dad hide some matza for me to find and then give me a prize?”

“The afikoman? Yes. Well, the children are supposed to look for the afikoman.”

“But sometimes do the new guests get to do that, too?”


“Will we drink four cups of wine?”

“Well, I’ll probably be having a gin and tonic, but yes, we’ll all drink wine.”

“Will we all get to read some scripture?”

“The Haggadah.

Yes. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get a good part, like the one that talks about putting the hand on the asses.”

“That would be so great.”

When we all gathered around for dinner, I took my place near the head of the table so I would be close to the action. On the cover of my Haggadah, I saw the words, “Sponsored by Maxwell House Coffee, good to the last drop®,” and immediately knew this was going to be an evening to remember. I followed along as all the guests read, ate my bitter herbs at the appropriate time, and pantomimed washing my hands along with everyone else. Natasha elbowed me when it was my turn to read, but I was more than ready.

I got to read one of the parts where everyone holds up their wine glass, and it made me feel like the father of the bride or maybe a motivational speaker. They were hanging on my every word, and until I was finished, they couldn’t put down their glasses. I had them completely in my control, and the rush of power was invigorating. I never wanted it to end.

Side note: I’m pretty sure that’s not the intended emotional response to reading from the Haggadah, but I’m new at this.

Every time I thought we were done eating, another dish would be passed around. There was delicious lamb and turkey, short ribs and carrots, mashed potatoes, some things whose name I forgot but they were like round cornbread cakes made out of matza, asparagus, little dishes of nonpareils, sweet jelly fruit slices, cake with berries and cream… it was wonderful.

The one thing Nat forgot to tell me about was the gefilte fish. I’m pretty much game to try anything – I can’t think of any food I wouldn’t at least taste, unless it was still alive – but nothing quite prepared me for the sensory overload that is sweetened carp that has been puréed and reconstituted into little semi-gelatinous slabs. One of the other guests recommended I slather on the horseradish, but even at a 2:1 horseradish to fish ratio, I couldn’t finish it. Then I noticed that about half the guests – including Natasha – hadn’t even touched theirs. I had been punk’d, Seder-style.

Once we were through with dinner, the hunt for the afikoman was on. It was really a competition between another Seder newbie and me – we weren’t even going to give the children a chance. After I tore through the house looking through drawers and cupboards and behind furniture, Natasha’s sister, Baby G, informed me that her dad is “not much of a hider,” and seconds later, my rival found it lying on the kitchen table, hidden in plain sight. Punk’d again.

We ended the evening with the time-honored Jewish tradition of gathering around the television and watching the previously recorded episode of Lost, before heading back into the city.

Afikoman loss aside, my first Passover was a total success. If any of you have Jewish friends and you haven’t been invited to Seder, I highly encourage you to start pressuring them now. Because we goyim are just like vampires to the Jews – we have to be invited in, but once we pass through their doorway, it’s an eternal party.

14 Responses to “Best. Passover. Ever.”

  1. kat Says:

    we hid the afikoman for winston last night, but i think he got the four questions wrong. i’m no cat whisperer or nothing, but i’m pretty sure he just kept asking “why did you ruin the gefilte fish with horseradish?” over and over again.

  2. eric Says:

    wikipedia is awesome, except when it is wrong. which apparently it was about the dates of passover this year – but i’ve been told that since then, they fixed it. :-(
    gefilte fish (from my experience) is actually good and quite edible (actually pretty tasteless – hence the horseradish), as long as you don’t get some weird flavored-kind. it comes in liquid or in jelly – i would avoid the jelly by all means because of the consistency, but maybe it punks-up the flavor as well.
    for someone willing to eat cricket – and EAT, not just taste – i’d hope you’d give the fish another go if given the opportunity. :-)

  3. shiny Says:

    I have to agree with the “avoid the jelly” comment above re: gefilte fish. As someone who is gradually exiting vegetarianism (especially on Passover where soy products are verboten), this was the only way I could get my gefilte on last night.
    If ever you’re in the DC are around Passover time, you’ve got a standing invite here. Because you truly haven’t had a seder without the time-honored tradition of whipping each other with scallions.
    (Yes. Really. Google it.)

  4. jenny Says:

    kat: winston can have my share of gefilte fish next year…
    eric: i would MAYBE give it another shot, if it weren’t the jelly kind. i think the jelly made it sweet, and sweet + fish = nasty.
    shiny: OMG – i just googled it! I’m totally coming over next year to be whipped by scallions. that’s awesome!

  5. churlita Says:

    I would love to experience it. But since I live in the town in Iowa where Ashton Kutcher was discovered, I’m more likely to get punk’d for real, than to get invited for Passover.

  6. claire Says:

    This post had it all. I looked askance; raised an eyebrow; thought ‘I like parsley,’ ‘ew’ for lamb and gelatinous fish, and ‘Buffy- yea;’ laughed out loud, commiserated when you were punk’d; and remembered that time in college I went to my gf’s for Easter dinner whose parents knew about us but didn’t acknowledge us as a couple because she’d been forbidden to tell her younger brother. A friend’s family’s religious gathering would probably be more entertaining. ;)

  7. Don Says:

    I got engrossed and let the bathtub run over. Damn you! Damn you to– ! Wait. Wrong Charlton Heston movie.

  8. Hap Says:

    You have inspired a new business model: an auction site on which bloggers bid for the privilege of having written a beautiful turn of phrase.
    I open the bidding at ONE MILLION DOLLARS for “Because we goyim are just like vampires to the Jews – we have to be invited in, but once we pass through their doorway, it’s an eternal party.”

  9. jenny Says:

    churlita: oh, there must be some friendly Jews in iowa who would take in a wayward shiksa. i say you start hanging out at your nearest temple!
    claire: the lamb was mighty tasty, but ew indeed on the gelatinous fish!
    don: hey! maybe now your downstairs neighbor’s ceiling will crack and you can photodocument it for me! unless you’re one of those fancy people who lives in an actual house, where the downstairs neighbors are your kids.
    hap: you are too kind, but then i’d have to deal with the eBay lawyers and all their cease and desist BS.

  10. shari Says:

    My most adventuresome adventures aren’t aventurous at all compared to even the most mundane experiences you have on a regular basis. You can turn dinner at a friend’s house into must-see T.V. by virtue of a simple blog post. I envy and love you in equal parts for this.
    But now I have to ask, did you recieve a visit from the Passover Python? I’m told he’s the Jewish version of the Easter Bunny, minus the cuddly persona. Myth or Fact?

  11. MOM Says:

    OK, young lady. This is positively IT ! THE END…no more asking for pity. Christmas 2009 is going to have the traditional Scandinavian Christmas Eve supper. And you know what that means? LUTEFISK!!! If you were adventurous enough to try gefilte fish, you can’t plead the “ewwww” factor regarding codfish preserved in lye covered in cream sauce and served on top of boiled potatoes. Couldn’t be worse, right?
    Start psyching yourself up now!

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Dear Jenny,
    Happy high holidays!

  13. Jessica Says:

    My maiden name is Eisenberg (German-Jew meaning “Iron mountain” for you Gentiles) and although I have never participated in a Seder, it’s good to know that all that Lost watching I did was somehow connected.

  14. jenny Says:

    shari: the Passover python?!? AWESOME! [runs to look it up on wikipedia…]
    MOM: bring it on! if i can handle gefilte fish, i can handle anything!
    vivian: thanks! same to you!
    jessica: if you’ve been watching Lost, then you’re halfway there. :)

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