by Danny Bryck1. Tell everyone that you’re making tishpishti for the Mizrahi/Sephardi Community Seder, ishala.
2. Now you have to make it, because ishala is just a figure of speech in a dying language.
3. Go around to every grocery store in the neighborhood looking for rosewater. Get excited when the guy at the co-op says they have it, and then disappointed when you realize it’s a cosmetic product.
4. Give up on the rosewater, it’s fine. Did mom ever even use rosewater? Don’t remember.
5. Look through mom’s old recipe books and try to decipher whether her notes in the margins are intended to make the cake tastier, or healthier.
6. Boil water, sugar, lemon and orange juice in a saucepan. You don’t have a cinnamon stick so just put ground cinnamon. Worry that you put too much ground cinnamon. Needlessly skim cinnamon off the top as it boils.
7. Chop walnuts. Remember how you used to say they look like little brains.
8. Let the syrup cool.
9. Mix 5 eggs, almond meal, chopped walnuts, and more sugar and cinnamon. Grate orange zest and squeeze in the juice. Wonder whether you have any idea what you’re doing.
10. Like, in life.
11. Put the syrup in the fridge.
12. Oh fuck preheat the oven.
13. Realize that at this rate you’re running late to the Seder. Consider saying you’re sick and just staying home and eating the tishpishti yourself and watching a movie, because maybe it’s a waste of time and energy to get together with a bunch of people who kind of come from where you kind of come from and to get all nostalgic and radical about it.
14. Put tinfoil in a pan and shmeer it with coconut oil. Feel bad that you don’t know a Ladino word for shmeer.
15. Pour the mixture into the pan as you sing a Ladino Passover song you taught yourself. Mom remembers it from her childhood, but not the words. Put the pan in the oven.
16. Text the host to ask whether they’re actually starting on time. Realize what a stupid question that is. (Of course they’re not.)
17. Shave. Think about your job and the woman you like and your mental health and how old you are.
18. Check the oven. The tishpishti looks ready even though it hasn’t been nearly an hour. It’s a Pesach miracle! Or you did something wrong.
19. Turn the cake over into a corningware. Cut into serving pieces. Pour the syrup over. Realize you have way too much syrup. Pour some of it back out into the saucepan, and put it in the fridge because G-d forbid you should waste an ounce of sugar water.
20. Go to the Seder. Put the tishpishti in the fridge. Greet people you know. Get into a super dorky conversation with some guys you just met about the survival of Jewish languages in the Ottoman Empire and in Central Asia under the Soviet Union.
21. Sit and talk and question for two hours with people who kind of come from where you kind of come from about oppression and shame and beauty and food and family and justice and loss and love. Remember you need stories to live. Relish the warmth and the smells and the smiling. Every time someone knocks, say in unison, “Eliahu?” We are all prophets.
22. Eat cous cous and fassoulia and khichri and kibbe and yaprakes and harira and hummus and haroset, and that kind of pickle you like, and seconds, and a piece of the tishpishti.
23. Find ridiculous things in common with strangers.
24. Take the compliment when people tell you they love the cake.
25. Next year in Jerusalem, but only if it’s free, or in the metaphorical Jerusalem where we are all free, mashallah ishala, tfu tfu tfu.