Monday, April 18, 2011

Passover Prep At Sea

As many of you know, the eight-day holiday of Passover begins at sundown tonight with a full moon and the first of the two ceremonial meals called 'seders'. Passover commemorates the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt, and more than any other holiday requires the most preparation and attention to detail. While many complain that they cannot eat any 'chametz' or leaven (which includes flour products like bread and pasta) or other beans, legumes, rice, corn, barley, etc. for the eight days, I love the holiday. It's always felt very festive for me, and I do love the food. I have fond childhood memories of it, and I hope that my kids will as well. The leading up to the holiday is slavery in and of itself, if you follow the rules to a T. At home, I change all my dishes to ones used only for Passover, and have only kosher for Passover foods available. However, given the size of our boat and this year where we physically are, these details were not an option. Our dishes were prepared for Passover by Harrison who cleaned them with a toothbrush no less, in a bucket of bleach water. We were due for a good cleaning in any case.

The full steam ahead intense non-stop preparation began for me last night on my midnight to 6 a.m. watch. Given the details required for the seders as well as the holiday itself, one cannot do this all in one night under normal circumstances. But this year we are a much smaller group (only the 4 of us compared to last year's 8 with my sister and her family, and compared to upwards of 25 people at home). Still there was lots to be made. On my watch last night I made my chicken soup (see last blog post about chiseling the chicken out of the freezer, a project unto itself), matzah balls, and prepared the veggies for the seder plate and meal. This morning we all got on our hands and knees and did a big Passover cleaning of the boat, while tossing our symbolic 'chametz' (leaven in the form of bread) overboard. No, I'm not getting rid of it all - we still have a week after Passover at sea and nowhere to buy more, so the bread, flour and other leaven are just stowed away. Today Michael and the kids made the charoset (a mixture of apples, nuts and wine that looks like brown guck and is supposed to resemble the mortar that the Jews used to make bricks while slaves in Egypt but tastes a whole lot better). I made a kosher for Passover wheatless apple and peach cake (my peaches were going bad so it was timely). Two days ago I made a potato kugel and before we left Mexico I made a brisket and froze it, ready to fire up in the pressure cooker later today with onions, carrots and celery for our seder tonight.

That's not to say I hadn't addressed any details at all before last night. In fact, the real preparation began over a month ago when we were in California. At that time I had to make sure I had a lot of what I needed for Passover to take back with me. Then in early March I made my kosher meat order from Mexico City, which included other Passover items as well. Interestingly, I did not order matzah, since, if you were reading last year at this time, I still have loads leftover from 2010. I added to my year-old matzah stores a few boxes of whole wheat matzah that I bought in California. The kosher butcher in Mexico City must have been alarmed, however, that I did not have matzah on my list for him. I had matzah meal, cake meal, Passover macaroons, Passover wine, Passover mandelbroit, Passover crackers, and the list goes on, but no matzah. He must have thought this to be an oversight, and worried that I would not fulfill the commandment to eat matzah on Passover, so he sent me - yes - another kilo of matzah. We are now at about 12 lbs of matzah.

Even with our miniscule four participants in our seder, for certain, this night will be different than all other nights. Seder at Sea. My mother once commented that it's worse than being in the desert. It's certainly similar, and I can see what she's getting at: there's nowhere to go and you're in constant motion. I've likened it to being on one of those really high speed trains where you get jostled all the time, except that we're actually going much slower. And we're here for 3 weeks. Without. Getting. Off. This is when I'm especially thankful for being on a catamaran which sails fairly flat. If we were on a monohull, we'd be heeled over and likely not able to even cook underway. On a catamaran, we pretty much carry on normal activity, with the salon and galley being bright as well as high up out of the water. And we hold on while doing everything.

As is usual, we'll still be following the order for the meal ('seder' means order) with all the symbols on the seder plate, Elijah's cup (not sure how to open the door for him though), three matzot, reading from the 'hagadah' (which literally means the 'telling' since it contains the service that you follow for the meal which in turn contains the telling of the story of the Jews leaving Egypt), the hiding of the afikomen (a piece of matzah that the Michael hides and the kids must find for a prize). The kids will be putting on the usually 5 to 10 character play of the story of Passover in a two person performance using only hats as props. That should be interesting. We'll have the symbols for the 10 plagues scattered on our table. [As an aside, you may be wondering how we have all this 'stuff' aboard? When we first moved onto the boat, we were sure to have a Holiday Box that contains all the items we'd need for the various holidays throughout the calendar year as well as special birthday items.]

The difference from any other year though is obvious. We'll be surrounded only by water. And we'll be pulled forward by a sail. And we'll be hearing the sound of the waves and the howl of the wind. This may perhaps be the most spiritually meaningful Passover yet.

Just beyond our Half-way Mark to Landfall in the South Pacific at 1350 miles
9 degrees 38.268 minutes North
124 degrees 32.795 minutes West
At 4/18/2011 21:50 (utc) our position was 09°35.98'N 124°34.59'W


  1. Leave it to you to remember to make a "holiday" box b4 you left while trying to remember the 101 other things that had to get done before you left in October 2009. I read your blog once again in awe as to what you can do and what you DO DO! I'm sure your seder was great and will be your most memorable iin the years to come. I remember Michael always making the charoset growing up - I'm sure it was delish! Chag Sameich and happy sailing. xo

  2. Can't wait for the post blog today as to how it all went. Ours was great. Kids loved it and could have gone on all night. They are so into it. Had to limit them in the interest of keeping the rest of the crowd involved. We are having a lazy day at home today waiting for the rental company to come and pick up all the tables and chairs. Nice excuse to lay low after all the prep!
    Chag Sameach...