We are now most of the way through my least favorite week of the year. “What, how can you hate Passover, Melissa?” How can I hate the holiday that celebrates the liberation of my ancestors from centuries of bondage? Well, I can and I do and I make no apologies for it. I started a list on the way to our first Seder last Monday (I was grumpy/hungry, if that explains any of this):

1. I’m missing “Gossip Girl.”
2. It’s raining.
3. No mac and cheese.

Well, I can watch “Gossip Girl” online and the sun has returned. But there is no substitute for macaroni and cheese. Have I softened my views on the holiday? No. But I’ve come up with things that make it bearable:

1. Matzah lasagna. (I am a culinary goddess.)
2. Charoset. (Apples, wine, nuts and cinnamon is always, always a win.)
3. Seeing family.

It’s been two years since I’ve seen my cousins out on Long Island. Months or years can go by without seeing them, but as soon as we’re all together, everyone falls in step very easily. Our grandmothers were sisters, and it seems that the Rutkin gene that keeps heads in the clouds has been handed down to all of us. In the hours leading up to the seder, wine was drunk, hugs were exchanged and stories were shared. I heard the infamous sponge story, in which my great-aunt Nettie started to chew on a purple sponge and remarked to her daughter, “I think this pumpernickel has gone bad.” “Ma, that’s a sponge.” That story was matched by the time the same aunt confused a dog biscuit for a regular cookie…after eating it. Let’s not forget the time Grandma Kitty went to strain some matzah ball soup and ended up pouring all of the broth into the sink. Yes, I am most assuredly part Rutkin.

My great-grandparents, the original Rutkins.

We also Skyped in cousin Steven Ezra, who is on tour with Momix in Italy at the moment:

Once all sixteen of us finally sat down, cousin Drew led us through the seder. Bitter herbs, Hillel sandwich, four questions, the four sons:

But then, a break from tradition! A few weeks ago, I wrote on cousin Hannah’s Facebook wall, “so word around town is that this year’s passover seder is going to be AWESOME…are you ready for this?” Cousin Vicki saw the post and was determined to find something to set this year’s seder apart from the rest. That “something” came in the form of two dozen scallions on the table. Vicki tried to explain their presence, but fifteen confused Jews at the table drowned out her explanation. I mean really, how do you explain this:

I finally took the time to Google the scallions and came up with an interesting explanation:

“Jews living in Afghanistan developed the tradition of using scallions or leeks to stand for the Egyptian slavedrivers’ whips, using them to lightly “whip” each others’ backs.”

According to the article, there is only one Jew left in Afghanistan, as the other one passed away five years ago. With nobody left to whip, the tradition will soon die out in Afghanistan. But it will be alive and well in Merrick, New York.

I live-tweeted the first night’s seder (or at least attempted to do so):

6:19 p.m.: I forgot that the theme of the Long Island fam seder is “Drink a Lot of Wine.” Remembering now…
7:44 p.m.: “Well, I think those very important words were sung to the tune of ‘Old McDonald.'” Let my people go, indeed!
7:57 p.m.: We just hit each other with scallions to the tune of “Dayenu.” New tradition?
7:58 p.m.: Pascal lamb has been replaced by ‘pascal yam.’

I gave up on the live-tweeting after that. The matzah ball soup came out, and matzah balls > Twitter.

All hail the pascal lamb...er...pascal yam, in honor of vegetarian Hannah.

We left the house full and sleepy and made it back to Brooklyn by midnight. The second night of Passover brought me back to Kingston for a seder at home. Cellphones and live-tweeting were banned at the table, but I managed to get one picture in between the seder and the actual meal:

I’m telling you, it’s all downhill after the second seder. The leftovers have run out (except for some salmon that will be wonderful with salad tomorrow) and I’ve resorted to matzah pizza for most meals. In a moment of culinary ballsiness, I attempted matzah lasagna (recipe here) and found the final result to be a great success:

If nothing else, the lack of bad carbs has put me on an energy kick, inspiring to spend most of the weekends outside enjoying the beautiful weather (more on that in a later post). I hope you all enjoyed the weekend’s weather and whatever holiday (if any) you celebrated.

Wine, charoset and the infamous purple sponge. This is my Passover.

“לשנה הבאה בירושלים…L’shanah haba’ah b’Yerushalim…Next year in Jerusalem.”