Monday, April 9, 2012

Holiday meals, kids with special needs and celebrations

"Why is this night different than all other nights?" is a question asked during the ceremony for the traditional Passover meal, the seder. The answers explain the customs associated with the dinner. Such as, on all other nights we eat bread and matzoh; tonight, we only eat matzoh. In our house, however, the question that usually holds most true is "Why is this night the same as all other nights?" Because Max is Max, and the things that bother him any other time—noise and commotion—still do.

I am not a real cook but this year, I decided to go all out. Perhaps you saw my frantic Facebook posts where I asked deep and meaningful questions such as "Help! My brisket's not fitting in the crockpot! Should I let it go up the sides or layer it?" People were incredibly helpful and then I somehow connected with a crockpot author, Stephanie O'Dea, on Twitter (aka my brisket patron saint). I also found it particularly reassuring when Joy, a Facebook friend, said, "My husband says it's hard to screw up with a crockpot! And he's a Texan, so I'm gonna assume he knows his brisket!"

As I cooked in the calm of the night, I was wondering how Max would weather the seder. Over the years, we've adapted to his needs. Nobody sings loudly and we also let him sit with noise-reduction headphones on. This year, I was thinking maybe he'd be game to sing along with some songs; he's into singing lately (although, true, it's only "You Might Thank I'm Crazy" from the movie Cars 2).

Making the meringue for the lemon pie turned out to be an ordeal. Cooks far wiser than I know that a bit of egg yolk in the egg whites ruins your chances of it meringue-ing. I had to toss a batch and start over. And then, because by then it was 1 in the morning, I absentmindedly dumped an egg yolk into the bowl of egg whites. Do-over! And then it was taking forever for the egg whites and sugar to thicken and I thought I'd messed up again.

As probably every one else on earth knows, meringue browns in a couple of minutes in the oven. I saw it turning color, kept it in there and suddenly, I had a lovely black meringue. So I scraped the top off, shoved it back in and decided next year we were going back to getting our meal from Whole Foods.

But finally: success!

Not too shabby for a non-cook, eh?

Max is a meat and potatoes kind of guy, and when he came into the kitchen in the morning and smelled the brisket still in the crockpot he said "Mmmmmmm!" And then he told me he wanted a LOT. 

Max has matured in a lot of ways this year and sure enough, he was a model seder sitter. He happily slurped soup. Dave fed him nice, juicy chunks of brisket. We let him have the headphones and iPad on and he stayed put for most of the meal, which is more than I can say for some sister who shall remain nameless. 

I was psyched by how well the meal went in general, but especially for Max. Everyone was duly wowed by my cooking (or, more likely, by the mere fact that I'd actually cooked). 

Hope you guys had excellent seders/Easter dinners! How does your child do at holiday meals? What makes things go easier?  


  1. So funny how holiday meals can make us reflect. So glad Max had a great Seder and woohoo to you cooking (something I don't do).

    Reid had an exciting year too. He tried matzah for the first time and liked it enough to take a few 'birdy' bites. He sat with his ipod games and talker for Seder (very short--and the ipod wasn't even in use the whole time!) and dinner. The best comment of the night was 'more matzoh...NO!' He had the traditional Passover dinner of french fries, strawberries, and mini reester bunnies. :) We also modified the afikomen by hiding a talking egg along with the matzoh that keeps talking until you find it. So he loved that too. Success!

  2. 1. Make only the chocolate covered matzah for dessert. Order other desserts from a great bakery that does Passover desserts.

    2. It's actually easy to make brisket. It doesn't require a lot of tending. The hardest part is slicing and my grocery store will do that for you so all you have to do is reheat ( hmmm this suggestion requires moving to an upper middle class community with lots of Jews and demanding women so it may be hard to follow).

    3. You need few kitchen skills to make a great matzoh stuffing. And many kids love helping you mush the matzoh up with chicken soup.

    4. Everyone loves a great fresh salad to balance out the heavy Passover food. Make lots. People will rave. Especially if you sautee red and yellow peppers the day before in garlic and oil and add them to your salad with crasins and tomatoes.
    And good seasons zesty Italian dressing made with balsamic vinegar tastes gourmet.

  3. Happy to hear that things went so well and that you have a good passover.

    easter went well for me

  4. We love the seder! E.'s OT and I call it the most multi-sensory holiday of the year. For a sensory seeker, there is crunchy matzah, opportunities to dip things, singing (which we've also had to do softly in the past), lots of getting up and sitting back down, and age appropriate discussions with accompanying toys to illustrate the story.

    E. sat almost the entire seder, (all four and a half hours), playing with the items on his own personal seder plate. He decided that this year because he's big, he would eat enough maror (bitter herbs, horseradish for us) to make him cry. And he chewed parsley dipped in grape juice much of the night.

    We have not always been this successful. It was exciting.

    Annie, I believe i will be making that salad tonight.

  5. Staying afloat. If you make the dressing cut back slightly on the oil. The oil from the sautéed peppers will make up the difference. Also use romaine or some other hardy green that will hold up well.

  6. Your lemon pie looks good! I can cook but I can't bake. My kids are really picky with food. They love pasta so it is always present in our holiday meal.

  7. Mara at Let Kids PlayApril 9, 2012 at 8:32 PM

    Chag Samech, Ellen. I'm so glad you had a joyful seder.

  8. This was, without a doubt, the worst Passover EVER! Because of our recent move across the country, we had to travel back to California for the seders. If we had to fly anywhere for anything, dayeinu! But add to that uncomfortable clothes, food restrictions, meal starting 30 minutes before he usually goes to bed, unreasonable expectations... you get my point. Seder #2 included a full-blown meltdown due to the afikomen.

    And before anyone can give any suggestions, please know that no one is willing to make any accommodations for our son (who has Aspergers, BTW). We get "well, he's got to learn" and other helpful comments.

    Oy to the vey!

    1. We get "well, he's got to learn" and other "helpful" comments. What?! Maybe the people should go read up on Aspergers? None of the comments are "helpful", not at all!

      Shame on them. A group of well educated adults should know better and be willing to make reasonable accommodations. So unkind and not okay in this day and age.

  9. Sarah, I am really sorry to hear that, both about the seders AND that your relatives aren't at all accommodating. That is so, so wrong. They wouldn't even do anything even if you had discussed it far in advance?!

    Glad seders went well for others here. Annie, I served a salad but it was nowhere near as exciting as yours (mine basically consisted of: open up plastic bag of mixed greens, dump into bowl). I'm also inspired to make it, even just for a regular meal!

    YEAH, Reid! LOVE his traditional dinner. :)

  10. Ellen, I'm kvelling over you for cooking and for Max's growth this past year. You have both come so far!

    I might have to get that brisket recipe and that cake is beyond.

    We had a great Seder too. Z knew we were celebrating Passover at Aunt Karin's house and that he was going to eat matza (I found gluten free kind ...costs a small fortune). He 'wowed' everyone by reading one of the four questions. All in all a great holdiday!


Thanks for sharing!

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