The One Where Max Helps Cook Thanksgiving Dinner

butter magicThis Thanksgiving was the best one I’ve ever had.  And I’ve had a lot of great ones.  The only thing missing was my sister, Tara, who rarely misses spending the day with us.  I truly wish she could have been here with us.  My brother came which was fantastic.  Better yet – he wasn’t antsy to leave the minute he arrived which he’s been known to do in the past.  He actually seemed mellow and stayed with us for all the fun.  My close friend Chelsea came to eat with us too – a special treat since we haven’t spent Thanksgiving with her in several years.

So here’s what we had on the menu:

Salt-roasted chicken

Stuffed baby butternut squash

Grapefruit and avocado salad

Fondant potatoes

Pecan Pie

stuffed squashMy pictures are crap because it was late afternoon when I took them.  This is my squash with mushroom stuffing using wheat bread and homemade stock.  They were so good!

extra stuffingI had enough to cook a dish of stuffing on its own.  (By the way, this is before it was cooked, it’s much prettier when it comes out of the oven)

Philip and Max  cookingBut this is the thing that made my Thanksgiving the best one ever.  Max has discovered (through a youtube video gamer) the youtube food channel  called “Food Wishes” which is where he found a recipe for salt-roasted chicken that he thought sounded good.  He requested we make it for Thanksgiving.

That’s the first food request Max has made for Thanksgiving in his entire life!

I obviously said yes and then informed him that he would have to make it with his dad, since I still haven’t recovered fully from the horror of cutting the tip of a chicken wing off and almost hurling because it disturbed me so much.  He agreed, so I bought them an organic chicken from Whole Foods and these two made the recipe from the video together.

This post is pretty much about Max from here on out.  I think you can excuse the single focus this time.  It’s pretty epic.

Max making chickenThis is Max, my extreme picky eating and non-cooking son, salting a chicken.

Max cookingI’m sure you’re as excited as I am and need to see another picture of him SALTING A CHICKEN.

salt roasted chickenHere it is, fresh out of the oven.  Chelsea, an incredible cook, advised that the chicken be covered with foil and a cloth and be allowed to rest.

another view of chickenIn case you didn’t see enough of this chicken already – I offer you this slightly different view of it.  You are totally amazed and proud of Max for helping to make this roasty bird, right?

The verdict on this recipe is that it is amazing!  The meat was juicy and tender and everyone loved it.  Except for me, obviously, because I was the only vegetarian in the house.  Every last scrap of the meat was eaten up – most of it that night.  Max declared it wonderful.  Even the thyme and butter sauce made from the chicken crusty stuff.  He loved the sauce.  Even with the green bits of thyme in it.


winter saladChelsea made this wonderful grapefruit and avocado salad with a grapefruit vinaigrette and feta.  It was refreshing and delicious.  Max didn’t eat any of it, of course.

The fondant potatoes were finished last and everyone was too full to eat them except for Max and I.  I tested the recipe earlier in the week and it was already Max approved (that’s two winning recipes tried from Max’s fave food channel)

I also gave myself a very painful oil burn making the potatoes.  But, whatever.


There was also a pecan pie adventure but I don’t care about that right now.

kid pouring rumMax has also developed an interest in mixing drinks, which I think I’ve mentioned before.  Usually he plays around with mixing different sodas or juices together but we let him make Chelsea and his Grandma a rum and pineapple cocktail.

rum and pineappleThat cocktail shaker is his own.  Philip found it at a thrift store for him.

Max the mixerThis is the first Thanksgiving for which Max had any interest at all in what was being served, sat with his family to eat, helped cook part of the meal, and hung out with us all.  We did do some things his way too – we watched a couple episodes of South Park with him.

As if all that wasn’t enough – two days later he tried my rosemary potatoes and likes them.  Fondant potatoes were the first non-fried potato dish he’s liked since he was 2 years old, and the rosemary potatoes are the second.  Rosemary potatoes are arguably the healthiest way to eat potatoes.

Max’s relationship with food is changing slowly and these moments are, for me, like big miracles.  Max was the kid who, when he was five, went a week eating only goldfish crackers (and was angry that no other food tasted good to him).  He is the child who once told me that he wished he could take pills for food instead of eating it, because then he wouldn’t have to taste bad tastes or experience horrible textures, or look at gross food.

The other thing is that he’s eating tangerines again now that they’re in season again and several days last week he ate tangerines and carrots IN THE SAME DAY.  Do you know how often he eats two kinds of produce in one day?  Never.

I don’t imagine that everything is going to change over night.  He still only eats produce at all because I make him.  He still eats very little variety.  But ever since late spring he has been exploring new foods and very slowly adding things to the roster of foods he likes.  What I’ve always believed about him is beginning to prove true: that this kid will someday be a gourmand.

Excuse me while I tell a lot of people “I fucking told you fucking so!”

Something I know in my bones and have known for many years now through all the frustration of raising a kid who would rather starve than eat something repugnant to him is that forcing food on him, fighting about food, making him feel bad because he’s so hard to feed would not have resulted in him arriving at this point at the age of 13.  If I had done as so many other well-meaning-but-totally-WRONG people have advised, his relationship with food would have deteriorated even more and become dangerously problematic.

Yeah, not done yet…

Accepting and working with his extreme limitations and understanding that his violent food aversions are real and very unpleasant for him has given him the room he needs to explore food on his own terms.  The most important thing is that I’ve never had expectations that he would one day be a regular (and maybe even healthy) eater, I only hoped for it.  And even now, after such an incredible breakthrough, I need to accept that this may be as far as he goes. But it will always be my job to encourage him to go farther.

I am expectation-free but I am full of hopes about where this kid is going.

I’m almost done.  Just have to gesticulate rudely at the stupids for a second:
I’m thumbing my nose at all those judgmental parents and relatives and doctors who have lectured me and made both Max and me feel like losers through all these years because he won’t eat like a normal kid and I am, apparently, to blame.  If any of those people had raised Max they would have broken him.

But for the rest of you – you blessed bunch of people who have not judged us and have been encouraging and accepting and awesome – you all ROCK. 

See?  This Thanksgiving was EPIC.  So, how was yours?

Let me remind you that you can give Kindle  books to people as gifts so if someone on your holiday gift list loves post-apocalyptic fiction and strong female main characters – Winter (Cricket and Grey) would make a great gift fo them!  Go buy a copy by clicking on the image which will take you to Amazon: