by Donnie Hayden
© 2014, all rights reserved
We just recently returned from the Blue Mountains where we rented a rustic cottage with a gorgeous overlook in Katoomba, NSW, (New South Wales), Australia. While I’m picking and choosing the pictures, I’ll give you an update and background information.
The day before we left, baby Felix came down with the croup. Mom, Papa and Grandma took him to the emergency room about 5:00 am – 7:30. I held down the fort with the three cats, one dog and the three chickens (Chooks).
Felix received some medicine and was given instructions that he should definitely go to the Blue Mountains and that all should enjoy the weekend! We followed those instructions to the letter! 🙂
Today, Tuesday 4/15, he went to the doctor and we received a good report. He is a happy boy again and Mom, Papa and Felix just returned from a walk to the supermarket, for stuff to put into the chicken soup, son Jonathan and Mom Susan are making for dinner. We had a lot of chicken left over from last night. Last night? Yes, last night. After we all got back from the Blue Mountains, Jonathan, Susan and I drove to Sydney for dinner. It was NOT an ordinary dinner, to say the least!
We were invited to this dinner and shared it with 16 other people, in a Jewish home. It was part of the Jewish Festival of Passover and called the seder.
The seder, the ceremonial feast held on the first two nights of Passover, is one of the most intricate rituals in the Jewish calendar, kicking off an eight-day stretch of complicated and demanding dietary restrictions. The initial meal, which ranges from eating bitter herbs to reciting Talmudic passages in a foreign language, usually lasts for several hours—and dinner isn’t served until more than halfway through.
The festival commemorates the exodus from Egypt, a key step in the formation of the Jewish people. The seder is not just a retelling of the story, like the weekly Torah readings in synagogue; it’s an invitation for Jews to relive the liberation from slavery as if they had actually been there in Egypt, to teach the narrative to the next generation, and to claim the history of their people as part of their own individual identities. But even in orthodox Judaism, families have long been accustomed to inviting non-Jews to share in this meal, alongside of them. I suppose this is because the desire for freedom and any exodus we may experience from bondage, is common to all.
But this particular seder was somewhat orthodox with some other unorthodox stuff, all thrown in together.
Guests included those from Poland, China, Sri Lanka, Australia and of course, we from the United States, but those are all the countries I can recall. Give me a break please, there were 18 people there besides me! 🙂
Just the guests themselves made an international and unusual impression. I am not quite sure, but I think all the major religions were represented at this dinner. I do know that Judaism, Muslim, Hindi, Christian and Roman Catholics were present.
Parts of the service were read by our host in Hebrew and most was in English and read by whomever desired to read and from the text re-written with a more modern update, by one of the three daughters of our hosts. The reading was done from 2 iPads we passed around the room. 🙂
It was at least to me, quite humorous to hear the readings by those Jewish with an Australian accent.
Part of the service includes the necessity of having “new” plates and utensils for each part. By “new” I mean that the same plates, bowls and utensils had to be changed during the several courses of the service. But in our case, the “new” was plenty of plastic ware. I can’t recall how many plates, small plates, bowls and utensils we used, but it was a lot! Our hosts were very giving in buying all this stuff that was thrown away as we went through each part. Once the ware or utensil was used, it was immediately thrown into a large plastic trash bag. You would eat or drink one thing and then toss the plate or bowls or glass or whatever, as these were now the “old” and had to make way for the “new.” If that seems like a lot of effort, you should have seen all the food! No one left hungry and I would imagine it took 1-2 days of chopping, dicing, cooking and so forth, to prepare this meal! And there was no bread, only Matzo.
Matzo is a flat cracker like food made with flour and water that is baked without yeast or “leavening.” I actually liked it, especially with the pickled (vinegar) beet-horseradish used as part of their “bitter herbs” requirement for the service. I sat right next to our host Lindsay and across from his wife Cheryl. I think they liked me because, I loved the beet-horseradish so much and told them about my tearing eyes and purple thumbs from making this at home. 🙂
The conversations around the room were about Jewish meanings/symbolism, history, WWII history, veterinarian medicine, teaching, psychology, sports food, differences of food between the United States and Australia and other topics! There was so much going on that I was nearly speechless and just did a lot of listening. I know, to those of you that know me best, it’s about next to impossible, for me to keep my mouth shut! 🙂
The whole event from start to finish, took hours. Sometimes, OK, most of the time, it was just loud and raucous. I loved it! And especially among the three Jewish daughters and their mother and father, the banter back in forth was hysterical! I even told Lindsay that I couldn’t believe that from across the room in the midst of all this volume, any of his daughters could still hear if their names were mentioned in conversation with others, but they did!
There were two dogs hoping for scraps that made the rounds. There were a couple of cats, one that is 18 years old that did make the rounds. I think that cat must have sat in every person’s lap that attended this meal. They liked the cat and the cat sure seemed to love the attention and the stroking. I even petted Tibet, the cat. Lindsay confessed that he loves the two dogs, but hates the two cats. But he is still the one that feeds them and they know this, but just keep their distance the rest of the time. I really don’t think he hates them though! 🙂
I enjoyed all the food and even the sweet red wine with grapes from Israel, grown in California, and blessed by some Rabbi in Hoboken New Jersey before, being exported to Australia! 🙂
That was real, but also a joke as there were several like these from the host family including what they call the Jewish chicken soup, ‘Jewish Penicillin Soup’ (good for what ails you and sickness prevention) or simply, ‘Jew Soup.’ That might sound racist and not funny to some, but I’m not the one that said these things. Well, it’s what Susan & Jonathan made for tonight’s supper from the massive quantity of chicken our hosts sent us home with, for Caitlin, as she and Felix did not attend, to everyone’s disappointment, I might add. But all seemed satiated with not just the meal, but from pictures and videos shared by Papa, with Felix as the main attraction! 🙂
The reason we are having soup tonight is because, everyone here was not feeling too well, except for me, I HAD THE CHICKEN SOUP LAST NIGHT, (while Susan & Jonathan had the orange soup)! 🙂
It was so very nice of our hosts to open their home and their hearts and share the costs and time required to prepare their food with, so many non-Jewish people and even with strangers like me that they had never met. I mean come on, can you get any stranger than me? 🙂
I thought it not polite to take pictures, so there are none. but there are 18 other witnesses (not including the two dogs and two cats that it happened and that I was there! 🙂
But this experience is one I will never forget! It was informative, historical, delicious and hilarious with some really good conversation, all thrown in together. And I would like to think that there, just a for a few hours, it seemed the world people in all their many differences and separations, were all ‘In Common, for this meal!
OK, so that’s a lot of content, where’s the pictures? They are coming! It has been difficult for me to get these posts done on a regular basis. For one thing, we are doing a lot of stuff. For another, I have been having problems with my camera, which needs to be addressed when we get back home to the United States. Another problem I am having is with my laptop. It is good to have it, but it does not perform like or have all the programs I use on my desk top at home to edit and quickly reduce the size of pictures to post. I cannot just use full size pictures in these posts, as I will quickly go over my maximum allowance through my WordPress (free blog). The resolution on my laptop is not as good as my desktop at home. But there is much visually, I do want to share with you and I will just have to work it out when we return.
It has also been difficult for me to adjust here. Last night and while in the Blue Mountains, I was layered, including a wool shirt. This morning, I was wearing a short sleeve shirt, sandals with no socks and I would have had shorts on, but they were all in the laundry. This is how it is here, in Australia. It is fall or early winter here, while it is nearly spring 🙂 in New York where we live. In New York, we ‘fell back’ last fall, when daylight savings time ended. Daylight savings time just recently started here. When you are sleeping there, I am awake here. When I should be sleeping here, you are probably awake there. Sometimes here, it’s tomorrow there and sometimes your today is already yesterday here. Then there is the up and down thing. You are up there and we’re down under here. Please don’t ask about which direction the water swirls here as supposed to there, I have not seen it nor can I tell. And when we leave here in a couple of weeks, we leave on the morning of the 30th, spend the night in Tokyo on the 30th, wake up on the 30th, fly home and by the time we get home there, its already tomorrow here and yesterday there! Everything is really messed up, but people that live here, just like you there, are all probably doing fine. It must be just me that’s messed up! 🙂
Oh, about the hat. Yes, I found my Akubra hat, not the one I was looking for, but one better and $30 cheaper and at size 58 not 57, it fits great! More about that later. Closing for now until again. OK, one picture then! 🙂