Food

What Are Your Family’s Signature Dinners?

Family Rituals Jenny Rosenstrach

My friend Jenny Rosenstrach is warm, wise and a genius when it comes to parenting. Her new cookbook, How to Celebrate Everything, dives deep into family rituals, and I read the whole thing this weekend, totally inspired. She talks about all things big and small — including one-on-one dates with kids, Thanksgiving chocolate pudding pie, Sunday meals and choosing a country for birthday dinners (and then going to a restaurant with that cuisine). But one chapter especially jumped out to me…

Toward the end of her book, Jenny writes about signature dinners:

When I was growing up, my mom made the best meatballs. And roasted chicken. And lasagna with the local market’s sweet Italian sausages. These days, when I take my family for dinner at my parents’ house, I beg her to make one of these dishes for me. How could I not? They were the tent-poles of my culinary upbringing — the family dinner rotation — and I must’ve had each of them once a week for eighteen years. If there were other things worth eating out there, I didn’t care to know about them…

In the past few years, I’ve made a point to pay more careful attention to the answer when I ask my kids “What do you want for dinner?” Because what I’m really asking is: “What foods will someday have the power to transport you back to your childhood?” (Or maybe “What foods will someday be powerful enough to make you literally transport yourself back to your mother’s dinner table, no matter how far away you live from her?”) The answers, not surprisingly, have nothing to do with what’s trending on Instagram. They couldn’t care less about ancient grains or bone broth. Their list can be reduced to what all kids want: pizza, roasted chicken, tacos or burrito bowls. Especially burrito bowls. So long as Mom and Dad are making them, they can’t get enough.

How to Celebrate Everything

So, I’m curious: What meals do you remember from growing up? What recipes do you hope your own children remember?

When I was growing up, with English parents in the Michigan suburbs, we had a mix of foods that I remember well. My mom would make chicken divan casserole (with water chestnuts!) that we all loved, and lemony roast chicken with crispy roast potatoes. She made crème caramel when relatives visited, and she always baked pumpkin pie for my birthday in January because it was my favorite. When my parents first got divorced, my dad wasn’t used to cooking dinner for three kids, and he’d make cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches for dinner (so English!). Later, he made bullet potatoes in aluminum foil over campfires, and on road trips, he’d bring a round of camembert cheese and French bread, which would taste delicious but make the car smell so barnyard-y and pungent, our eyes would water.

For my own children, I’m feeling inspired to pick some delicious recipes to start making regularly and get rooted in their sweet little heads! So far, we have two long-standing and much-anticipated rituals: a cake the night before the first day of school and a half cake on their half birthdays. (Basically, two excuses to have cake.)

How to Celebrate Everything

Thank you for the inspiration, Jenny, as always. (Here‘s the great trailer, if you’d like to see. The book is so, so good.)

P.S. An ode to rituals, and how to get kids to talk at dinner.

(Photo by Chelsea Cavanaugh.)

  1. So fun! I love my dad’s grilled cheeses, they’re just the best. He would always make me one when I was gagging on the broccoli casserole, or whatever else I was being picky about. My favorite tradition, of course, was the filet mignon and potatoes we would eat on Christmas Eve every year. Definitely keeping THAT one in the family history ;)

  2. Laurel says...

    I love how nearly every single comment isn’t just about food. It’s about family and how strong our associations with food are. Jenny has really tapped into a powerful subject and I cannot wait to get my hands on her new book!

    I was raised by a single dad and most of the time we ate Hamburger Helper, haha. My great grandmother is Swedish and has passed down a recipe for Swedish meatballs, so every once in a while he’d make them. Now I make them for my boys but I use the DALS recipe instead! Whenever we eat them I am instantly transported back to the tiny kitchenette in Washington state, sitting there while my dad made dinner. My mom wasn’t around much but early in my childhood she was and used to make these really delicious scalloped potatoes. They were so good and I think of her any time I have them.

    My husband is the cook in our family and is all about rituals. I love it. We do have regular family meals (he makes the best Lamb Daube) but he always cooks a special meal for birthdays and celebrations. We live in Australia where it’s pretty normal to have an open door policy with guests; most of the time we have people just drop by and he is always happy to whip up a meal. I have a few dishes that I do throughout the week (poor guy can’t do it all!) and I think our boys will be instilled with the idea that food is what brings people together.

    It’s healing too….I love finally sitting down together after a rough day and having my 4 yo ask “how’s your day Mom?” That will never get old.

  3. Nicole says...

    Growing up my Mom made dinner for my brother and I almost every night unless we went out to dinner as a family. We were both easy eaters so my Mom was able to make all different kinds of food that we loved. The biggest stand out from childhood for me would be Welsh Rabbit. My brother actually didn’t like it (who doesn’t like melted cheese and toast?!) so it turned into a dish that my Mom made only for me. I’ve always felt like it was our super special meal that we could only have together.
    Oddly enough, my Mom just called me while I was typing this. And when she asked me what I was up to, I very cheerfully told her how I was commenting about her Welsh Rabbit on a blog. I could hear her smiling thru the phone :)

    • Jackie says...

      So sweet!!

  4. Fiona says...

    I love this so much. My grandfather always loved pineapple upside-down cake, and had it for every birthday. Since he’s passed my aunts (his daughters) have started using it as everyone’s birthday cake! We don’t do this in my nuclear family (none of us have ever figured out how to make it well), but I love when anyone of us visit around any birthday (including our own), we still have it. Funnily enough, because the recipe is for a “normal sized cake” and family is at very high altitude, my aunts just split the cake so it doesn’t overflow in the oven, so the guest of honor gets their own private mini cake and the rest of us share the large one. Makes it even more special when its your turn!

  5. Jenine says...

    I love the timing of this article. My son is almost six months old and about to start solid foods so I love the idea of creating food memories that will eventually bring him home for family visits!
    My mom is a fantastic cook but what I really remember are the special desserts she would make for birthdays and dinner parties: banana rum cake, black forest cake, crepes, and the list goes on. One of my first memories is of the carrot cake she made for one of my early birthdays, topped with a ton of tiny marshmallows.

  6. Ashley says...

    Awww. This post brought tears to my eyes thinking of dinner with my family as a kid and how even now that I’m an adult with a kid of my own I’ll still call my mom and ask for my favorites (coq au vin, fidejo, and posole).

  7. Lena says...

    I have so many food related memories but one very specific one is that once when I was very little (probably around 5-6yo) I woke up in the middle of the night because I was really sick. When my mom came into my room asking what would make me feel better I (half-conscious) muttered pasta with strawberries. Yes strawberries! And to this day I’m not sure how my mom (in the dead of winter, well past midnight) managed to find strawberries from some grocer, cooked a batch of spaghetti, mixed in the strawberries and brought it to my room on a tray. Every time I remember this I make sure to give her a hug.

    • Nicolette Graham says...

      Beautiful story. Made me tear up. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Kirsten says...

    Hi Joanna! Is there a recipe for the meatballs in the photo you used? They look SO delicious! I tried briefly on Jenny’s site, but wasn’t sure if it went with one of her meatball recipes.

  9. Natalie T. says...

    I love this post and I’ve brought Jenny’s cookbooks because of you. (They are amazing by the way. You always have the best recommendations.) My best memory is being able to walk home from school for lunch and my mom would always have a grilled cheese sandwich waiting for me. If she wanted to jazz it up, she’d put onions in them. It always takes me back. For birthdays, she’d make a four-cheese lasagne (which I always request) and still makes me a Duncan Heinz chocolate cake every birthday. Those are the memories and meals I cherish. I love your back to school cake tradition and the idea of a half cake for the boys’ half-birthdays. And PS I did make Jenny’s Chocolate Pudding Pie with Graham Cracker Crust. The crust didn’t work out (sniff!) but the pudding part was amazing. I’m going to practice again for Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving that is). Thanks again for such thoughtful posts.

  10. My mother makes the best lasagna this side of the Mississippi, and we always had it for Christmas. Also, her tuna noodle casserole! I make it myself now, and I’ve improved the recipe (I make my own soup base rather than use the campbell’s cream of), but it’s still one of my favorite meals.

  11. Jane says...

    My grandmother’s spaghetti and meatballs! As little kids, we always knew that would be on the table when our family arrived after a long road trip to visit the grandparents in Pennsylvania. My mom and each of her sisters make their own, slightly different version of it (different spices in the meatballs and/or the base for the sauce) and would still make it on request after my grandmother passed away. Hers will always be the best–as a kid, I always thought it was because it was made with the most love. Another great grandma food ritual, similar to Joanna’s cake rituals: even when her 6 children were all adults, my grandma continued to bake each child’s favorite pie every Thanksgiving when the family reunited.

  12. My Mother was a great cook. One of our regular meals was fried chicken and mashed potatoes with milk gravy from the chicken drippings. I think of it so often but just realized I have never made it for my Son. My Mother passed away when I was 19 so this just reminded me that I need to make this for him soon.

  13. Katie Sullivan says...

    My parents both worked in special education, my Dad as an administrator for special ed schools (mostly for the hearing-impaired) and my Mom worked for the county serving infants from birth to three with special needs. Looking back, I think they saw a lot of tough stuff and felt inclined to celebrate the small things. They made a big deal out of breakfasts for each little holiday. We always had green eggs & corned beef scramble on St. Pat’s and heart shaped pancakes on Valentine’s Day, along with little cards for each of us on the counter where we ate most days. It made me feel so special, and like I had a unique relationship to each of them. Also, on game days our Dad (who did breakfast in our house) would make my sister and I “power breakfasts” with lots of carbs and all this rah-rah “4th quarter granola” stuff. He also always burnt toast but said, “eat it. it’s good for your colon.” HA! My Mom made lunch & dinner and I still die for her Swiss Enchiladas. So cheesy & GOOD! But nothing beat her “Russian Tea’ when sick; I think it was just Tang, lemonade mix and Nestea but oh, how I still ask for a jar for Christmas. These are the little things I remember and cannot wait to do for my own kids.

  14. Jess says...

    This is a topic that has come up frequently between my husband and I. We are expecting our first child in January. We already have a couple of “signature dinners” together and we have been talking about whether or not our child will grow up to have fond memories of them. Growing up we always had chicken and noodles with mashed potatoes for Sunday supper. Thinking about it just makes me feel cozy.

  15. How lovely. Paella was my oft-requested birthday meal; seafood alfredo was one sisters (not sure of our other two siblings), generally made by my mother. Good Friday, a somber, meatless fast day, found us eating potato soup; by Easter Sunday, it was garlicky lamb, creamed spinach, and cheesy potatoes followed by my Cuban grandmother’s brazo gitano (a rolled cake). Year-round, my father’s hand-tossed pizza remains a big hit as do my grandmother’s tortilla espanola and empanadas. For thanksgiving, my grandmother always makes black beans and rice that we eat with the traditional turkey et al, and for Christmas Eve she still makes the traditional feast to eat after mass, with pork, black beans, and yucca.

    I hope my daughters remember the dishes we eat every year for holidays and holy days, as well as our everyday meals (like Marcella Hazan’s pork chops with sage and tomatoes!).

  16. Karen Lee says...

    I was very fortunate to grow up having a mother who was the best cook in the world. She baked fresh bread everyday and made her own yogurt,jam and grew a garden with the freshest produce.I never ate anything out of a can until I was a teenager. We also had dessert every night even if it was just a bowl of ice cream or chocolate pudding.My friends loved to come to my house for dinner.Now my mom is in her late seventies she does.nt cook like that anymore.When I visit her it is a very simple easy menu so I try to cook all the old favourites but it,s not the same.

  17. Jillian says...

    I love this post!
    my all time favorite childhood dish is chicken divan, too! as a kid I called it chicken “divine” :) I always make it when I need something comforting. when my husband and I moved into our new apartment, it was the first thing we cooked. I make it for potlucks, too, and now all my friends ask for it. it’s so nice to be able to share those traditions from childhood with them.

  18. being raised Brazilian in the US, my mother would make all sorts of Brazilian classics that I ask for whenever she comes to visit, but especially a bean dish called “tropeiro” which is dried beans with manioc flour, super thinly sliced collard greens and fried sausage. it’s a main dish in itself and although i’ve tried, i can never get the greens to match hers.

    my dad on the other hand, worked at an italian restaurant, in the kitchen, as a recent immigrant to the country, and learned to cook there! so his signature dish that i have him make is actually chicken piccata.

    now that my boyfriend and i are living together, and both working from home, we’re constantly trying to replicate family recipes for each other and create our own recipes – since we eat at home a lot. he’ll always make his portuguese mom’s white bean and sausage + i’ll make my mom’s chicken strogonoff. and after visiting peru last year, our own favorite signature dish has been vegetarian quinoa chaufa! <3

  19. I was struggling to think of my special foods until I realized they are all things my grandparents would make. My parents are both good cooks, but it’s not the same.

    My favorites made by Grandma: scalloped potatoes (served with ham and green beans cooked with bacon), ham salad (“with pickle relish!” as she always said), the best fried chicken and pot roast (both with potatoes on the side), Texas sheet cake and “crazy cake” (both with homemade frosting). My grandpa also cooked, but he was more of a baker. I most remember his homemade cinnamon rolls and bread and homemade pizza!

    I also think of them every time I make Campbell’s tomato soup and grilled cheese. I was at their house almost every Saturday and that was usually what was for lunch. Oh, I’m feeling so nostalgic now <3

  20. Food in my family has always had a sort of traditional element to it. My aunt makes the best spaghetti pie ever, and that’s always her most-requested dish. My grandmother bakes two casseroles for Christmas Eve dinner, chicken and seafood, and they’re actually the yummiest things on this planet. Food has always been a way to get family together and it’s probably why I love posts like this so much.

  21. Sharon in Scotland says...

    I remember my mutti cooking west indian food for my dad, (they were from Antigua), salt cod, fungee with oily onion, pepper and garlic. She used to cook the best fried chicken for Sunday lunch with rice and peas, then she decided that it was too unhealthy so we had English roast.
    I grew up in the 70’s, when they did horrible things to liver for school lunch, my mutti used to slice the liver up and flash cook it with mushrooms, peppers, onions and garlic, then serve it over rice………gorgeous!
    She made something called “swiss eggs” an egg cracked into a saucer, surrounded by grated cheese and put into the oven until it was hotter than the centre of the sun……….it took ages to eat!
    She also makes the best soup in the world, no fancy ingredients, just a ham bone, bit of veg………………it was what I’d ask for when I came home from college.
    I came from a large family and my mutti used to cook a 24 lb turkey for Christmas day, she’d start it off very late on Christmas Eve and it would cook through the night, so you would have that lovely smell on Christmas morning. My sisters and I cook the meal now, but the turkey isn’t cooked until my mum says it is!

  22. Keeley says...

    This is random but I wonder where the brown-handled silverware is from in the meatball pictures? Maybe it belonged to the photographer so Jenny wouldn’t know. But if anyone has any leads send ’em my way :)

    My daughter is only 14 months but as she gets older I love the idea of celebrating a half birthday with half a cake! I also love the special plate someone mentioned above. My college cafeteria had random sparkly trays mixed in with the regular ones and we always felt it was lucky to get what we referred to as “the disco tray”. I would love to do something like this with my daughter too!

  23. Megan says...

    I love reading through all these comments and feeling the nostalgia pour through! I wish you could create a cookbook with everyone’s recipes that they talk about ;)

  24. Rachel says...

    My family is very Midwestern. Both my parents grew up on farms (one in Iowa, one in Minnesota). My Grandparent’s house holds such strong food memories for me. My Grandpa makes his own grape juice that’s always in the fridge, much more tart and less sweet than anything you can buy. It’s perfect. My Grandma makes the best baked goods, particularly breads. Her cinnamon bread round is the best! She would always serve it for breakfast whenever we visited.

    As a child my family always did Breakfast for dinner on Sunday nights, and it was always waffles and bacon. The house smelled so good. Also my Mom makes amazing chicken noodle soup completely from scratch, and the best bread. We always had dessert after dinner growing up.

    Now my husband and I have our own food traditions. We make our own pizza from scratch on Saturday nights. I make the dough, and he makes the sauce. We have so much fun working together. He also makes the BEST meatballs, they have become his special signature dish. We have a daughter on the way and we are so excited to create food memories for her.

  25. Mae says...

    We didn’t have any traditions at home when I grew up, so I’m really into making memories and traditions for my babies :)
    Spring and Summer, we grill something yummy and play music and dance outside and then settle down and look at the stars after dark.
    We have homemade pizza, roasted cauliflower, and watch football on Sundays in the fall/winter months.
    For Christmas Eve, I make sushi to devour after mass, and for Christmas dinner: Beef Wellington and Christmas Pudding!
    As often as possible we put candles out on the table for “regular” dinners. It just seems to set a special tone!

    • Sarah says...

      My family makes Christmas Eve sushi, too!

  26. Kali says...

    My parents made many a great meal of meat, potatoes and a veggie (I’m from Iowa), however, the ones I remember the most weren’t real “meals.” My dad would spend forever making milk rice and that was all we’d eat. It was one giant pot of deliciousness. My mom would let us have popcorn for supper on Sundays, usually watching a movie or the Chicago Bulls play. Nowadays my husband cannot believe when I suggest rice or popcorn for supper. It is not a meal he claims. My family and I beg to differ …

  27. Courtney says...

    Love this! Growing up my Italian Nana either made tortellini soup, pasta fagioli or pasta e ceci each week and I would eat the same thing every night (as an adult-I still do this!). With one exception, Thursdays was deemed “Chinese Soup Night” and my mom would always go get my favorite hot and sour soup from a local chinese place. I looked forward to Thursdays every week and still LOVE hot and sour soup. I guess my point here is that it may not have to be a homemade meal as long as the tradition holds strong.

  28. Tina says...

    What a beautiful post! Would you believe I’ve never had meatballs and pasta? But, I bookmarked an earlier recipe you posted and can’t wait to make it.
    I grew up in Australia
    with typical Greek parents. My Mum was always feeding every one! I still remember her running after the rubbish cleaners with beer and food! In the morning haha. They loved her.
    She didn’t cook gourmet but there was a lot of greek salad, fish, bbq and tzatziki, olive oil etc. But, her bread was out of this world. We’d get people from just about everywhere calling for the recipe but they could never get it just so. That’s what I really remember, her freshly baked heavenly bread, baked with a lot of love. I miss her everyday.

    • Tina says...

      Reading all these comments I remembered two deserts! Thank you lovely readers!
      One was fresh egg yolks whipped with cream. I recall thinking that must be so gross as I watched my Mum mixing it with a spoon. One taste though and I LOVED it. I won’t have it often though as it’s so bad!
      And she always made the “friza cake” (greek aussie slang for freezer/fridge) with those long biscuits and cognac and cream. I have a photo of my first birthday where I am plunging my hand in the cake to eat. Yep. Everytime she made that cake it was a good day.
      I’m now pregnant and can’t wait to see how this will go!

  29. Laura says...

    My mother died several years ago, and I am always trying to recreate her recipes. Honestly, it was more the time I spent with her in the kitchen that mattered more than anything.
    Now I have 2 stepdaughters, and it has become a tradition of ours for me to make them a very special birthday cake each year. I love to surprise them. Now my 2 year old son is part of the tradition of course, and he gets his own favorite chocolate cake. I hope and think they all will remember their special cakes that I loved making for them.

  30. So funny that I had this thought a while back:(https://twitter.com/paperwhiskey/status/435780776857042944). I don’t think my mom realized she was creating a ritual. She had four kids and worked around the clock. So she always made things that could be reheated the next day. My favorite dish she made is thit kho trung (http://www.hungryhuy.com/how-to-make-thit-heo-kho-voi-trung-vietnamese-braised-pork-with-hard-boiled-eggs/). I think restaurants save it for moms and grandmas to make, because no Vietnamese restaurants serve this dish!

  31. Jess. says...

    On one of my mom’s last lucid phone calls, I wrote down her pear pie recipe, word-for-word. I can make it so it tastes exactly like hers. I feel so thankful for this. And I miss my mom.
    Signature actual meals (hey, pie is a meal!) growing up were lasagna and squash, which is my “birthday meal,” and sausage and spinach pie.

  32. Amanda says...

    My mother (who passed away almost a year ago) was an AMAZING cook. She made the best _____ (fill in the blank). While her signature dishes were Korean, some of her American dishes were fantastic. For example, her breakfast sandwiches would just melt in your mouth, and her fried chicken was out of this world. Her best Korean dishes were her kim chee, any stew, mandu, etc. Actually, picking her best Korean dishes is like picking a favorite child. I miss her and her cooking dearly.

  33. Nora says...

    I love reading all of these comments with everyone’s happy memories!
    The dishes in regular rotation during my childhood were beef & beans, venison bourguignon (my dad was a hunter, so we always had a deer in the deep freeze), and variations on the Scandinavian theme of creamed vegetables (peas, tomatoes, squash, etc…) on toast. My mom called her creamed tomatoes on toast “rum tum titti”, which always made us giggle. My favorite food tradition was every Sunday night we made popcorn & ice cream floats and watched America’s Funniest Home Videos together in our pajamas. It was a wonderful way to end the weekend, relaxing and laughing together.

    My husband and I now have our own rotation of favorite meals which shift based on the season (lots of salads & curries), but my specialties are cakes (I bake them for all of my family & friends’ birthdays) and from-scratch pizza. I can’t wait to make new food memories and traditions with my kids!

    • Katherine says...

      Ice cream floats! I forgot about those! My dad used to make me root beer floats as a special treat (and then we would watch those old National Geographic nature specials together)

  34. growing up my mother was not the best cook. she would burn practically everything. and she hates following recipes. so she would make something wonderful one time and then decide to “play” and it would never turn out as good again. ugh. she made the BEST pound cake when I was young then she decided to use wheat flour, or apple sauce instead of butter, etc. never.the.same.again. she often made spaghetti with eggs. I make a different version with sauteed garlic, olive oil, eggs, and Parmesan cheese – my son requests this regularly. He will also ask for sauteed broccoli with garlic. and he says I make the best meatballs and steak EVER. a sitter complained once that he told her her scrambled eggs were not as good as mine. (teehee) but he learned to love grilled peanut butter sandwiches from her! I don’t think I have a signature sweet dish…I used to make the best cookies but haven’t for a while. I’ll have to get back to doing that.

  35. Twyla says...

    I had to laugh reading this because my mom isn’t a very good cook, and the only memory I have of her dinners is Shake-N-Bake. I did learn to cook at an early age and our family tradition was every single Friday was pizza night. I made from-scratch pizza, then when my younger brother was old enough – he made it (my mom made her own roast chicken to eat instead). We would watch Star Trek the Next Generation or some movie my mom taped off of tv. I still want pizza every Friday, and often make it.

  36. michaela says...

    Jenny’s pork ragu with pappardelle is quickly becoming one of my husband’s and my signature dishes! It’s so easy, so good, so impressive, and we get so many meals out of it. Another classic in our household is what we call “no-dinner dinner”—olives, cheese, prosciutto, salami, bread, and wine. We honeymooned in Italy, so anytime we don’t feel like cooking, we partake in this nice little reminder of our trip.

    On my side of the family, my grandma’s meatballs are the pinnacle of favorite family meals. I still haven’t mastered them. When she taught me, I had visions of tomatoes simmering on the stove for hours. Instead, she dumped a can of Ragu in a pot “because it just tastes better”! I love that family meals don’t have to be fussy or fancy to hold a special place in our memories.

    • Jeannie says...

      I told my husband yesterday thatI am dying to made that pork rage recipe!

    • Jeannie says...

      I meant ragu!

  37. Brittany says...

    I grew up with a mom who absolutely hated cooking and a dad who was on the road a lot for work, so dinner most nights was something from a box or a can. However, there were a few things my parents would make (that we would all actually eat since we were all picky) that always stood out: my mom’s chili, French toast on the weekends, and my dad’s “orange spaghetti” (basically regular spaghetti with butter mixed into the sauce).

  38. Michele says...

    My daughter is a super picky eater so we haven’t really found any dishes that she’ll think back on with fuzzy memories as an adult (unless noodles with butter count), but one of our traditions is Pillsbury cinnamon rolls on snow days. When it looks like a storm is coming, I always try to pick up a package so we can treat ourselves during our snowy morning at home. Living in New England, I had to put this tradition on hiatus a couple of winters ago though when we kept getting those huge Nor’easters. We had so many snow days, our waistlines wouldn’t have survived the winter!

    When I think about my own childhood, my mom’s spaghetti sauce and meatballs (it’s a thing in our family, even though we’re not actually Italian!), and her apple crisp are two of those things that jump out at me. I also remember my dad grilling steaks (served with a pat of butter on top) and eating them while watching The Osmonds on Sunday evenings. Fast forward to today, and my dad’s homemade pizza is one of my favorites.

    I love the idea of creating more traditions for my own little family and can’t wait to read Jenny’s new book!

  39. Kate says...

    Pot roast, chicken cacciatore, and crusted tilapia were all in the rotation. The thought of my mom’s incredible pot roast makes me homesick to this day. She also makes Neiman Marcus cookies. Just the thought of them takes me back to my childhood!

    I always miss my family’s eating traditions the most when I’m sick- must be craving comfort. To this day I must have warm Vernor’s ginger ale and plain toast. I found a store in DC that sells Vernor’s and stocked up! Just as important as having Nyquil on hand to me.

  40. Jennifer says...

    I remember my mom’s standard dinners really vividly. I grew up in the 80’s and it showed in the food. Meatballs with egg noodles and mushroom soup sauce. Chicken casserole made with wild rice and sour cream and, again, mushroom soup. As we got older she made stir fries, homemade-ish pizza, and veggie burgers once I went vegetarian. Now that I’m a mom with a four year old picky eater and a two year old who eats everything, our dinners are so different, but I still love cooking for them. Rice noodles and tofu is a big family favourite. Homemade pizza works too. Quesadillas, mac and cheese, soup and frozen pirogues. They don’t know what’s fancy and homemade vs what comes from a box or a freezer. But I hope they’ll remember feeling loved and well fed regardless.

  41. margie says...

    My parents were not big cookers or bakers. I was a vegetarian from a REALLY young age (3), and it perplexed them and flustered them to no end, and I was sort of on my own for eating. Before a lot of meatless alternative were out, and vegetarianism was more widely accepted, it was a lot of potatoes, spaghetti, and Linda McCartney’s cookbook. My dad could at least wrap his head around that b/c she married a Beatle. :) What I did pick up from them, though, is eating Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls every Saturday morning, and now I do that for my kids. Those things were a constant my entire life up to college, and my kids can tell it is Saturday even though they don’t know what days of the week are (at 2, I think every day is kind of Saturday? They either hang home with me or go to Meem and Peeps). I know I should be making roasted quinoa and acai 2 ingredient pancakes for breakfast or some mess like that, but damn these canned cinnamon rolls are good, and they taste like childhood to me, and now to my kids.

  42. Kate says...

    This reminds me that it’s not the smartest dinners you remember from your childhood. My mom used to make my brother and I baked beans on toast as a treat for supper when my Dad played golf on a Wednesday afternoon/evening. So English now that I think of it :)

  43. Marisa says...

    I can’t wait to read this book. I devoured her first book as though it were a novel. I try to always remind myself that THIS is why I cook, even when I don’t want to or when it isn’t easy.

    Reading the comments on COJ is one of my favorite things. I teared up a few times reading about sweet caregivers and their traditions for their families.

    My parents were both flight attendants, and my mom flew to Milan for years. The day after she would come home, we would ALWAYS have something special she had smuggled in (hey, it was the 90s!). Delicious fresh pasta, cured meats, fruits and veggies, parmesan– all from her favorite markets. Her signature meals depended on where she was flying that month. If my dad was home with us we always had the exact same meal- chicken tenders and boxed mashed potatoes. We loved it just as much as my mom’s meals :)

    • Lena says...

      I love this!

  44. Laura says...

    Chicken divan is on my list too!! And flank steak and cajun chicken and soda cracker toffee. Funny because I don’t ever try and make any of those (except the toffee), I probably think subconsciously that it just couldn’t possibly live up to mom’s.

    I hope my boys remember my amazing scrambled eggs (lol, but true!) and taco soup and their dad’s banana bread and ice cream!

  45. Ana says...

    Anything and everything that has cod, my mum will make the best version in the whole universe. I can’t cook cod properly myself (the time to buy salted cod and leave it on fresh water for 3 days and have the whole house smell is just too much for me) and I never seem to get the perfect taste out of the store-ready frozen fish.
    So my sister and I will always ask for cod on birthdays and special lunches or dinners. Cod with cream; cod with eggs and parsley; cod with mashed potatoes… it’s so unbelievably good and comforting. I loved it as a kid and I still love it now. :)

  46. Laura C. says...

    My signature dinner is ham omelette. Every time I cook it for my girls and eat a bite, I go back to my childhood.

  47. Kat says...

    Just loved reading all these comments – thank you.
    There are four kids in my family and we all had a favourite dessert that Mum would make on our birthdays or special occasions, and now when we go home to visit. Mine was apple crumble, my other sisters had Lemon Delicious, cheesecake and chocolate self-saucing pudding. So good. I can’t wait to get a copy of this book now!

  48. cgw says...

    I made a comment above somewhere to another commenter as we have similar memories. But I also wanted to share my own meal ritual that I have with my daughter. When she was a baby it never occurred to me to try to create a signature meal. She’s school aged now, and my husband and I work full time with commutes. I don’t cook meals fully from scratch in the same way that my grandma made meals when I was growing up (she lived with us). So I felt guilty for a while that I was somehow short changing my kid on nutritious meals, and of food memories. However, these things happen organically. Every time I make TJ’s orange chicken, accompanied by TJ’s chicken pot stickers, steamed rice, and veggies my daughter is the happiest camper around. She would eat this four times a week if I let her. So when she smells the distinct tang of the vinegary orange sauce she will literally sing about it as she comes into the kitchen to tell me how excited and happy she is about dinner. I think there is a food ritual memory in the making.
    Thank you Trader Joe’s.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Thank you, CGW!

  49. Wendy says...

    My mom made a traditional Cantonese dinner almost every night when we were younger. I remember white cut chicken, stuffed eggplant, steamed pork ribs and a homemade soup every single night. I certainly don’t have the time to make a 3 hour dinner every night like she did but I do try to keep most of our rotating menu classically Cantonese.

  50. I love this post! When I think of my mom cooking meals in my childhood, I think of fried chicken tenders (homemade, not frozen), English peas, macaroni and cheese (from the box), the best cornbread EVER, and sweet tea. Now, if only I could go back to my high school weight, when all those calories didn’t even faze me!

  51. Sarah says...

    My dad always made my sister and I his “famous” scrambled eggs – perfect fluffy eggs with a side of toast. A few years ago, my then-foster teen (now adopted kid) was having a particularly tough time so we sent her over to my parents house. And yup, she got a “famous.” It made me teary just thinking of it.

    • Tina says...

      Awwwww. That was so touching!

  52. My mother’s wife made us chicken parm at least once a week. She always used Ragu sauce. There are other brands of sauce I prefer now but when I make chicken parm, I have to get the Ragu or it’s not right. As an adult, I’ve discovered that apparently only my mom fed us bananas and cream–cottage cheese, sour cream, sugar and sliced bananas all mixed together. Still one of my favorite comfort foods!

  53. Liz says...

    I grew up in New Orleans so this will probably comes as no surprise that my most memorable family ritual involves alcohol, but we used to all get together in the kitchen to make eggnog to give to my parent’s friends every Christmas. We would whip the eggs in this huge bucket and everyone took turns with the beater since it was our favorite part. My parents still do this and all of their friends look forward to the eggnog every Christmas as it has become a part of many of their holiday rituals.

  54. Brianna says...

    I am a long time reader, but I have never commented! This article just stirred something inside of me and made me so sentimental! I’m from the Deep South, and rich food was very much a part of my upbringing. Every year, my mom makes cornbread dressing at Thanksgiving, and there is nothing like it. It always takes me back to my childhood. She would also make tomato gravy with biscuits for breakfast. She still makes this for her friends every year for Christmas, and she ends up having to share the recipe with everyone!
    Thank you, Joanna, for bringing so many different ladies together on your blog! It makes my heart so happy!

  55. Melissa says...

    I think signature dinners are so, so important to have! So much positive emotion can be tied into the food we eat.

    Both of my parents cooked (depending on the era we were in), so I have meals I associate with each of them. Probably the most low-brow of the foods is my mum’s classic “oven dogs”. It was the last-resort, no-time, too-lazy-to-really-cook dinner option. You take hot dogs, slice them down the middle almost all the way through, fill with cheddar chunks, and bake. And then, inevitably, serve on toast rather than buns. It was always a hit!

  56. Alex says...

    I first approached this question as a parent now, but reading some of the reader comments I got swept back to my childhood! My mom worked nights so it was often just my dad and me. We were both weirdly obsessed with Campbell’s New England Chunky Clam Chowder. We were vegetarian in every other way, but just held out for this soup because we loved it so much! I remember both of us confessing that we secretly each wanted it two days in a row and hoping the other one did too. The other favorite story is that of my dad’s chili. He made it regularly for as long as I could remember…with meat before we went vegetarian and with fake meat after. I grew up thinking it was some sort of family heirloom special recipe…and then when I was old enough to ask and notice, I learned that it was literally from the “I Hate to Cook Cookbook,” has no significance whatsoever aside from being easy, and is comprised of onion, meat, a can of tomato soup, and a can of kidney beans!! But I still love it and make it now!!!

  57. Laura says...

    I’ve ordered the book! Cant wait to have a read. x

  58. Sandy says...

    I grew up on a farm and this time of year always transports me back to my childhood and the best of homegrown meals. I remember the pride bursting in my chest knowing that everything on my dinner plate was from “our farm” even if it was just roast beef, potatoes and green beans with garlic from the garden.

  59. Lindsay says...

    I cannot wait to get this book! And have friends over for dinner :)
    Can I ask what is the recipe in the top photo? Looks so good!

  60. E. says...

    I’m from Germany, and Germans love their Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake). Throughout my childhood, she used to bake a cake, and sometimes two, on Saturday nights to be eaten on Sundays for breakfast and as an afternoon snack. I think this is the food tradition that must have been the most consistent over the years. Although I do not bake every weekend, I bake cakes and other sweets quite frequently as our Sunday family treats.

  61. We do homemade pizzas every Friday night with our six kids. After years of experimentation, I’ve finally found the BEST dough and sauce recipes! Even my pickiest eater is happy on pizza nights and last week he ate seven (!!!!) pieces…probably making up for everything he didn’t eat the rest of the week! It’s also a great time to have both kid-friendly toppings (pepperoni) and adult versions (caramelized red onions with goat cheese, arugula, dried figs, and balsamic is my current fave!). It’s become a really popular night for the kids to have friends over for dinner and I love to think about what our kitchen will look like on pizza nights in another ten years…a good excuse to build an outdoor oven!

    • Maybe you could post your awesome pizza dough recipe? I’m always searching for a new one to try.

    • Amanda says...

      Recipe please! We do a family pizza night too!

    • Laura says...

      Recipe! Recipe! Recipe! Do you use a pizza stone?

  62. The foods that transport me back to childhood all circle back to my grandparents. Puerto Rican Chicken Empanadillas (a.k.a “pon pon” or “dia according to my nephew), cuccidati cookies, fava beans, and raviolis. Every year for our birthdays My grandparents would always make my sister and I raviolis using pasta from a local deli. Which is also what we had on Christmas. I still stop at that deli when I go back to San Jose and went there with my husband on our honeymoon road trip so I could share a happy memory from my childhood with him.

  63. Family foods for me are my grandpa’s beef stew (made in a pressure cooker from his childhood), and his Irish soda bread. I recorded videos making each with him a few years ago and am so glad I did. He is 94 now and not able to get around the kitchen, so I can re-create them for the family. Of course, I follow his first step to every recipe: Pour yourself a drink!

    • Robin says...

      I love this! I’ll have to start listening to him… I’ve been missing the first step to too many recipes! ;)

  64. Anita says...

    I think it’s really interesting that as an adult I crave the food my mum made that I didn’t like to eat as I child. Cabbage rolls, cabbage soup, chicken in a kind of white sauce with capers and rice…. I hated all of these things as a child and barely touched them but now they are the ultimate comfort foods for me…

  65. Lisa says...

    My mother’s family is Slovak, thus her halupky (stuffed cabbage), cabbage and noodles (cabbage and onions sautéed in butter!), and nut rolls at Christmas are home to me. Also, New Year’s Day would in no way be the same without pork and sauerkraut. Often when my dad was in charge of dinner, he would make scrambled eggs with hot dogs sliced into them, which while I would never eat it now, was *so* great at the time.

    Love reading all of these comments!

  66. Oh, I love this post so much. I come from a deep-rooted Southern family, and homemade food feeds our body, mind, and spirit, completely. My mom and grandmothers were such amazing cooks, and I have such fond memories of shelling peas and prepping meals with them. My grandmother grew and canned her own vegetables, and it was only after she died in 1996 that I even had store bought green beans (I was 14, and thought the store bought canned variety were just disgusting!). Favorites from growing up were and are ham, deviled eggs, potato salad, cornbread dressing, my grandmother’s homemade sourdough bread, fried chicken, green beans, fried okra, ambrosia salad, butter beans, cornbread, pecan pie, coconut cake…I could go on and on. I love making big meals featuring these same dishes for my own family now.

    • Erin says...

      YES! I am from the South too (Mississippi) & you’ve got my mouth watering just thinking about it. All of those are family favorites of mine too, but especially my grandmother’s sourdough bread. I still can’t recreate it! Must be a grandmotherly thing :) Thanks for sharing!

  67. AG says...

    My mom made dinner every night but it was work to her, she never truly enjoyed it. I was always very interested in cooking as a child and when I was 11 or 12 years old she put me in charge of one meal a week, usually on Friday nights. I could make whatever I wanted; she would buy the groceries. I remember making manicotti (recipe on the back of the pasta box), Campbell’s cream of chicken soup with chicken breasts and frozen vegetables, served with rice (again, I believe recipe found on the back of the vegetables or the soup can). Also, a dish called “Mallorcan Black Beans and Rice” that was on an index card from my uncle – basically a can of black beans with a special hot sauce that he gave us, served over white rice. My mom let me move freely in the kitchen from a very young age and for that I am so grateful. Anyone who didn’t know my mom would think she did love cooking. She put delicious meals in front of us. The ones I treasure are lamb burgers with baked potatoes, Swedish pork chops on Christmas Eve, meatloaf, and taco night. She never wasted a morsel of food and could make delicious soups in the crock pot too :)

  68. Becca says...

    Chicken Devon! I love that you mentioned that dish – I always used to ask for that for my birthday meals growing up, and now I ask my mom to make it when I go home to visit. It really does melt away the years and make me feel like I’m 10 again.

  69. Erica says...

    We used to have what we called “Pannekoeken” which is the Dutch word for pancakes. I’m Australian but my mum is Dutch and my Dad is Mauritian. I only realised when I got older that our Pannekoeken were in fact a wierd fusion food combining the two family influences. Essentially French inspired savoury crepes (from the Mauritian side — we eat them with ham and cheese bechamel and salad fillings), with the dutch pancake name (because mum used to be on pancake flipping duty). I’m 36 but everytime my mum and dad come to stay I ask them to make me Pannekoeken for dinner! Yum! :-)

  70. Kaycee says...

    My family is from Bangladesh so we ate a lot of curry growing up and my favorite is a curry made out of a lemon unique to Bangladesh called shatkora. It is the most aromatic citrus fruit I have ever smelled, just slicing it open makes the whole kitchen fragrant. It’s hard to describe, the best I can describe it as is a mix between lemon and lime. I still request this curry for my birthday dinner my mom makes for me every year <3 My dad always knows how to pick the sweetest, juiciest mango and how to slice it just so. After a curry dinner, mango was always the best dessert!

  71. Corn & Sausage Chowder (mom)
    Chicken Pot Pie Casserole with homemade biscuits on top (great-grandmother)
    Chocolate chip cookies dunked in coffee (dad) –>must be reading the funny papers when doing this or it won’t taste as good. ;-)
    Scrambly Eggs & Bacon or Country Ham with Biscuits and redeye gravy (country to the core) always remind me of my paternal grandmother, Mee-Maw. As do canned summer green beans. Instant time travel!!

    Funnily enough, I’m the only person that makes any of their recipes at all anymore. I’m the only one who cooks AT ALL anymore. A burden I gladly bear.

    Oh except the no-idea-where-it-came-from Lasagna on Christmas Eve. We’re not even close to being Italian!

  72. Every Sunday, my mom would make a big bowl of stovetop popcorn. With a side of fruit and Crystal Light, us three kids were in absolute heaven. Popcorn has seen me through a lot of difficult times, such as adjusting to life as an expat: http://www.eatsbyem.com/comfort-food/

    I love reading all of the comments. Food plays such a big part in life!

  73. Sasha says...

    My mom made good meatballs too. And baked a chicken every Sunday, because that was my dad’s favorite. I love this dessert she called Indian pudding, which she always made in the fall, basically a caramel pudding cake with raisins and walnuts.

    My newly adult daughters have been asking for a lot of recipes since they’ve left home. Peanut butter noodles, homemade mac and cheese, brownies, granola. I really love asking them what to make when they come home….they are really excited and grateful to have a “mom” meal. What a fun post!! Thank you.

  74. Kirsten says...

    Love this!

    I have such a goofy assortment of memories associated with food from my childhood. My very favorite was this hot dish my mom would make with yellow rice topped with chicken breasts and a ring of canned green beans around the edge of the pan. I DIED for that stuff and always requested it on my birthday. She would also always make THE BEST cream cheese coffee cake on holidays, which we would devour. I was crushed when I found out last year that it is from the “Colorado Cache” cookbook–here I thought it was a secret recipe available to no one else :)

    Whenever I would ask what we were having for dinner, my dad would say “frogs eyes and seagull legs” every time. He didn’t cook much for us, but my mom sometimes worked night shifts and swing shifts at the hospital and my other favorite childhood “meal” was my dad’s menu of popcorn and ice cream for dinner when she left for work. We always made popcorn in this big cast iron pot on the stove, and my dad tops it with tamari and nutritional yeast. I have that pot now, and eating that popcorn always makes me nostalgic.

  75. My mother had quite a few “signature meals” that she made often when I was growing up. One of my favorites was fried fish (that my dad had just caught from the lake). She makes the best pan fried fish.

  76. I love the idea of half a cake! SO funny and half birthday are SO important when you are less than 10 yrs old!

    Signature/ favorite meal was a spinach square: a bag of spinach, 1 container of cottage cheese, 1 or 2 eggs and mozzarella (the whole block). I don’t know if it’s greek (we are far from being greek) but is is SOO good.

    Otherwise, the spaghetti sauce of my mom. She add cinnamon in it. It changes the whole thing.
    Thanks for the share of your friend.

    • Tina says...

      Yes, we make this in Greece but with feta cheese :)

  77. Kerri says...

    Beef stew and dumplings! Oh gosh, now my mouth is watering. Any rainy day, I would request stew. Every birthday when I got to pick dinner? You guessed it, stew! It’s still my most favourite meal and I make it just the way my dad taught me :)

  78. My mom loves her crockpot, so growing up I always remember her preparing food in the morning before I went to school and then coming home in the evening, after school and my afternoon activities, and dinner was ready. My favorites were vegetable stew and pulled pork. It’s funny to look back on that now because as a kid I definitely assumed dinner took all day to cook.

  79. jen says...

    My mom is actually retiring and coming to live us! I can’t wait for her to make my favorite food for my kids.

    • Lisa says...

      What an incredible gift for you and for your kids! That’s just awesome.

  80. cooper says...

    The question about parents’ signature meals is so sweet! My favorite was always shepherd’s pie, which was really just ground beef, canned corn, and mashed potatoes topped with cheddar cheese and Lawry’s salt. The funny thing is that it was recipe from a homemade cookbook that one of my dad’s ex-girlfriends had made for him, haha. My mom used a lot of those recipes!

    • Melissa says...

      This is so great! I guess your mom recognized a good resource when she saw one!

  81. Miriam says...

    For all the working mamas out there, my mom worked full time growing up. I had a baby sitter/nanny from 9-6 every day. Sometimes we ate with her, and sometimes we waited for my mom. I feel lucky because I always felt like I had a bonus mom, another wise woman who gave me amazing advice and made me feel safe and happy. And, best part is, I have DOUBLE the memories of special traditions and rituals, surrounding food and non-food activities. For example: on birthdays my mom would make a special breakfast and put a crown on my chair when I came downstairs and have the dining room decorated. My babysitter baked my cake while I was at school, and left a card under my pillow for me to find when I went to bed. All these traditions remind me of home, and are equally special. Now that I have friends who are working, and anxious about their kids “missing out” (and vic versa), I always tell them it’s really double the love and attention and rituals and memories.

    • Kate says...

      Thank you for this. From all the working moms xxx

    • April says...

      Here here! Love this!! xoxo from a working mom

  82. Katherine says...

    My mom had some great standards–lemony grilled chicken breast, garlicy stuffed mushroom caps, etc.

    But the thing that I remember most is that she would sometimes let us have “upside down dinners.” We would have dessert before the main course and salad, and–the real thrill–we ate under the table! It was so silly and fun, and even if the meal itself was just meatloaf or something normal my sister and I would get so excited. My heart gets a little soft and my eyes get teary thinking about my lovely mom trying so hard to make everyday things special for us.

    • Jules says...

      I love this ritual! What a fun idea!

    • Megan says...

      This is the sweetest. :-). My mom would make a special breakfast for dinner sometimes, and it had the same effect on my sisters and me. My mom passed away ten years ago, and there are so many foods she used to make that, when my sisters or I make them now, seem to bridge the gap and bring her home again in some way. There are also some really seemingly simple things she made – white rice with butter and sugar, macaroni with tomatoes – that, try as we might, we can never seem to get just right!

    • Tina says...

      That is so fun! What a lovely way to spruce up dinner time and make for fuzzy memories. My Mum used to take us across the road to the park when my sister and I were being fussy or just to spice things up. She’d spread out a tablecloth and voila, picnic!

  83. Vicki says...

    This really got me thinking! My husband makes homemade pizza and flatbread (which is pizza dough baked with olive oil and Cavenders Greek spice no nutrionsl value but so good!) then I thought I gave nothing!!! But I was saved last minute I remembered they love my box pancakes because I let them add whatever to it – chocolate chips and raspberries, white chocolate and blueberries. Sprinkles to change the color – they love it!

  84. My Dad has a sixth sense for bad days. Every if you are trying to hide it, he knows when you need a little extra comfort in your life. His answer was always the perfect fried egg sandwich. Good quality bread, lots of mayo and the ideal egg, whites hard but yolk runny enough to drip down your chin.
    When I was little he would make me one in the middle of the night if a had a nightmare like it was the most normal thing in the world.
    When I was around sixteen I went to a party to meet my crush and told my parents I was staying at a girlfriend’s house. At the party I found my crush kissing another girl and was devastated. I took a cab home at 2am smelling like keg and my parents certainly knew something was up. My Dad could have questioned me about my lie, or where I was, he could have yelled at me, but he just read my face and went straight for the kitchen. That was maybe the best fried egg sandwich I ever ate.
    I make my daughter homemade pizza. It’s a dish that you can change with the seasons, and it is so much better homemade. Eleanor is only fourteen months and she can already help me put it together.

    • Amy says...

      Aw, your dad! So sweet.

    • Jamie says...

      Your dad is so sweet

    • What a great dad–I might have to steal his cure-all! My dad’s solution is ice cream. He once got me up after my brothers and I had gone to bed, and took me out for ice cream for no particular reason. I felt so special. I think he just felt like ice cream and wanted a partner in crime.

    • Rik says...

      I’m crying. This is the sweetest thing.

    • Sasha says...

      What a beautiful story and great dad.

    • Thanks everyone, he really is the best Dad, he knows its all about the little things ?

    • Tina says...

      Wow!! I’m teary! What a great Dad!

    • My mom always used to make me a fried egg sandwich to cheer me up or to ‘treat’ me. Money was also pretty tight for a while so I’m sure that’s partially why we ate egg sandwiches a lot. Your story made me smile and made me think of my mama.

  85. Jean says...

    Growing up, and I still request today, the savory items are ham balls (meatballs with a sweet tomato sauce glaze) and krautburgers. There was a lot of baking in our house and desserts after nearly every dinner, and my favorite sweets are carrot cake, pies pies and pies (peach and pecan are faves), cinnamon rolls, homemade donuts on sledding days and almond pastry puff. When it was dad’s turn to cook we always enjoyed breakfast for dinner. Not sure what my boys (1 and 3) will end up having as their requests, but I hope some of my old family favorites carry on!

  86. Maire says...

    My mom makes the best homemade chicken soup! Well any soup for that matter. I think it is because she takes the time to make homemade stock, and I wish I had the patience to do that myself. She also makes the best chocolate chip cookies and this oatmeal cake that she frosts w/ German chocolate cake icing. To die for. My favorite things at my Nan’s house were her chicken/broccoli/cheese/rice casserole and also fancy Jell-O cups that she used make just for me in pretty stemware! She would layer Jell-O, fruit, and then a layer where she whipped milk into the Jell-O. SO DELICIOUS. In our house, my husband’s signature dishes are tacos, chili, stir-fry and steaks on the grill. Mine is probably lemony roasted chicken and risotto, or Moroccan chicken with couscous. I also make delicious cherry chocolate brownies.

  87. There are definitely staple meals that stick out in my head from growing up…the strangest being grilled cheese sandwiches (always cheddar on sourdough) with Crunch Taters (jalapeno potato chips) and chocolate milk!

  88. tyler says...

    I had a similar convo with my husband recently – we were cooking one of our favorite recipes and I suddenly thought wow – I wonder if some day we’ll be making this for our kids (we don’t have any yet) and if they’ll want to cook these things on their own when they’re grown. Sweet thought.

  89. Vicki says...

    I never noticed until my husband said something like, “your mom doesn’t make normal desserts, you know, like cake.”. And its true! She always makes these layered casserole type things right out of 1974 Better Homes and Gardens– you know, where you buy a cake mix and a box of instant pudding and a tub of CoolWhip and a can of pie filling and, Tada! When we first got married, I didn’t know what to take to a potluck, so I made one of her specialties, and I realized, Yikes! There is no actual *food* in this pan!

  90. Gaby says...

    I don’t know why I cried reading that excerpt?! So true that moms just know how to make everything taste better. Like her chocolate chip cookie squares, so good every time!!

  91. Lisa says...

    I’m Jewish and keep Shabbat, and a couple of weeks ago I was thinking that I keep on preparing the same things for Friday night dinner (new baby, little mental space for coming up with new menus) and then I realised – so what? When my son grows up he’ll remember these dishes as being what mama makes and he’ll think of them fondly.

    The foods that I remember my mom making all the time (and being awesome at) are cauliflower cheese, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies and roast chicken. For the roast chicken, she and I would always eat one of the wings just after it came out of the oven, to check it was cooked. I do this now and look forward to sharing it with my son when he’s old enough.

    My son (and hopefully his siblings) will have meatballs, lemony and honey chicken with couscous, paneer curry with butternut, what we call tortillas but are probably actually frittatas, various salads like roasted beetroot with cumin, to remember with fondness

  92. My mother makes a mean Greek-style chicken. Funnily enough, while my husband is English and not at all Greek, I prefer his version of “fakes” or lentil soup to my Mom’s- it used to take me an hour to get down a few bites! Funny how things work out :)

  93. Hannah says...

    As I’m preparing to have my own baby, I keep telling my husband at dinner time: “oh, my mom used to make this when…” and I get nostalgic about so many dishes! A few that come to mind: her homemade BBQ sauce on chix or ribs, my dad’s grilled mushrooms, flatbread sandwiches, and the world’s most amazing apple pie! For my own little family, our two go-to dinners are Rainy Day Chile (which we love to cook together: I make the cornbread, hubs makes the chili) and Salsa Chicken Casserole.

  94. Grace says...

    Growing up in London I loved having jacket potatoes with British baked beans. My favorite!

  95. marney says...

    We also do a 1/2 cake for my sons 1/2 birthday! Love to hear that others have the same tradition.

  96. Caz says...

    My dad was a single parent, with 4 of us kids, and not a great talent for cooking (though as he always says when we tease his cooking, “well you survived, didn’t you?” haha). Spaghetti bolognese with crusty garlic bread was an almost weekly favourite – cheap and easy – and it’s definitely a comfort food for me now.

  97. Mac says...

    Lemon clam spaghetti, which is simple but impressive somehow. I still pick out the clams, just like I did when I was 12, even though I’m the chef now and can leave them out if I want!
    That’s also the first meal I cooked for my now-husband (because simple but impressive) and a meal my girls will always eat. I love that I’m adding layers of memory associated with this one dish!

  98. One of the most special go-to meals my mom makes is her chicken tostadas. I love seeing all the fresh ingredients chopped up in pretty bowls & we get to build our own. She’ll make it all from scratch–the whole chicken is boiled and shredded with yummy seasonings, she makes 2-3 types of salsas, and she even customizes the sour cream. Its like magic–i could never get it right! I do not live near them, but she still makes these a lot for Friday night dinner when my brother & his family go over. Another super special treat was her homemade waters. She always has a pitcher of homemade agua fresca in their fridge. My favorite is her Chia & lemon water. She also makes grape & lemon water, strawberry banana water and many more. Yum! No Kool-aid in our home because we had some homemade goodness all the time. I remember all my friends would ask “what kind of water did your mom make this week?” As soon as Fall hits, my mom always has homemade bread pudding at hand. Its another one of her specialties. She gives it away as gifts & takes it to all the Fall/Winter gatherings. I remember several mornings of café con leche and a slice of that bread pudding.

    A few of My signature meals are: Lettuce taco night, chicken sausage & broccoli stir fry (even Luna loves it) and Huevos con chorizo with homemade corn tortillas on Saturday mornings.

    xo Lendy
    http://www.twoplusluna.com

    xo Lendy
    http://www.twoplusluna.com

    • Mia says...

      yes! very similar! we would have tostada nights too. i actually make those pretty often, such a good, fun meal for feeding a small crowd. and chorizo y huevos in a homemade tortilla with a side of papas and a cup of coffee seriously heaven…

      also – I just checked out your cool blog and see you’re in sac. i’m in Roseville! :)

  99. Libby says...

    Cinnamon sugar toast. My dad made the best damn toast every time I was sick…

    • YES!!! Cinnamon, sugar, and butter toast! My eyes are welling up right now just thinking of my dad making that for me.

    • Abbie says...

      Same here! My dad was the master of the cinnamon to sugar ratio–one of many things I miss so much about him.

    • Kirsten says...

      This must just be a universal dad thing? My dad would always make this for breakfasts and snacks! He would cut the toast up into little vertical strips, and it never tasted right if it was a whole piece.

    • Kate says...

      Yes, this is mine too! My mom was notoriously healthy (think wheatgerm and Carob chip cookies), but after chilly outdoor adventures hiking in the woods or skating on our local pond, my mom would make cinnamon sugar toast, and I thought it was magic!

  100. Mia says...

    I’m Mexican and Italian, so our family’s signatures include my mom’s shredded chicken enchiladas, pork posole and tamales and dad’s short ribs slow cooked in tomato sauce, lasagna and fresh gnocchi with homemade sausage. We all have birthdays in the fall and winter, so my family refers to September through January as “eating season.” :) Lots of celebrating, lots of food!

    • I relate to your food memories so much Mia! Delicioso!

  101. I love the idea behind this cookbook! Growing up I never had much interest in learning how to cook, but my mother always tried to teach me things here or there. I used to bake with her often, so recipes like pumpkin bread and oatmeal cookies always bring me back.

    I really took me having children of my own to finally begin cooking regularly, and now I love it. It’s amazing how much I learned from my mother, apparently I paid more attention then I thought I did! I really hope to do the same for my daughters!

    xoxo http://www.touchofcurl.com

  102. Joanna- I LOVE THIS concept! Its so true! Lately, on the heels of my 30th birthday I have been extra nostalgic for childhood and all of those familiar, childhood rituals! I would have to say my favorite one of all, and one i miss dearly was my Italian grandfathers signature pasta dish- penne with roasted eggplant, mushroom and zucchini sauce- he would let the vegetables simmer in his marinara sauce all day, and add some black olives for their brininess at the end- with fresh grated parmesan and my grandparents signature dinner salad- iceberg lettuce, celery and tomato with shaved carrots and oil and vinegar. Just thinking about it takes me back!

  103. Sarah M says...

    Mmm. I doubt my mom raised us with a “signature” dinner. We had a million things (we’re not really tradition people– our only tradition was to try a new recipe each holiday) and for me, the thing that stuck was salmon with wild rice and greens (salad, green beans, or broccoli), which we ate probably weekly during salmon season. At the age of 27, I still request that every time I go home to Seattle to visit. And now that I’m older, I really admire her for cultivating such a balanced appetite in us!

  104. Chicken divan is my GO TO(!) happy childhood food. I eat it every year for my birthday.

  105. I remember my mom’s shrimp scampi- she would make it whenever we were celebrating something special. When my husband and I were engaged and planning our wedding menu we told my mom we would be serving lamb and she FREAKED OUT about how it’s not a crowd-pleaser… and then suggested we serve “a nice shrimp scampi” instead. My husband and I just about died, silently laughing on the other end of the phone, over how predictable the whole scenario was. In the end we served lamb & trout and everyone seemed happy enough! :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      haha that is so cute!

  106. For me, it’s pancakes. My mother would make them on special occasions and at weekends. And growing up we had a fruit garden with tonnes of raspberries, so we would make raspberry jam all summer – smelling that always takes me right back to around 1997. My fiancé and I have roast chicken every Friday. He makes the BEST roast potatoes while I have a bath, then we have the chicken and open a bottle of wine and the weekend stretches out ahead of us. It started out because making the chicken takes longer than we normally spend and neither of us wanted to do that on a weekday, but it has become the best, happiest part of our week.

    • Bean's Mom says...

      How does he make the roast potatoes? Please share! :-)

    • Ha, well we have a really hot oven, which burns most things but is great for potatoes, so that helps! But you need to get the right potatoes, red skinned rooster potatoes are the best, peel and cut them into quarters (or smaller, I think ours are usually 1-2in), put them in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Usually leave them boiling for a good 2-3 mins, a little longer if they’re bigger. When the water gets to boiling, put a roasting tin with a few slugs of olive oil and a knob of butter in a HOT oven (200 degrees Celsius – probably between 380-400 Fahrenheit) until the oil is hot. Drain the potatoes and sort of shake them around in the pan a bit with the lid on – it makes the edges rougher so they get crisper – then tip into the roasting tin with the hot oil, make sure they’re all covered in oil and that they have plenty of space. Add a little salt and pepper. Put them in the oven for about 45-55 mins, turning them half way through. It makes really crispy, very soft -centred roast potatoes. Parboiling them to start with, heating the oil (it should sizzle when you put them in) and a hot oven are important I think. It’s a bit of a production – that’s why I head off to the bath! But delicious!

  107. Liz says...

    My dad’s tuna noodle casserole (made with Campbell’s cream of broccoli soup); my mom’s chicken marsala; an amazing lemony chicken recipe passed down from my grandma. During christmas break when I was a kid, my mom and I would also take a day and make a big batch of homemade meatballs and sauce to eat the rest of the winter.
    There’s also a new kind of recipe folio my parents and I are making; I only live ten minutes away from them now, and I’m an only child with no kids yet, so we spend a lot of time cooking and in the kitchen when I come over. Recently, my dad found a recipe for these amazing pressed Cuban sandwiches, and he uses all my old college textbooks that are left in my childhood bedroom to press them down! Such a funny sight to walk in to!
    My boyfriend is also an only child, so he has really sharp food memories from growing up as well, and we both have go-to recipes from our families that the other counts among their favorites now–I love his mom’s bolognese sauce (that he makes so well!), and he asks for my mom’s breaded chicken cutlets all the time.

  108. My favorite from my mom: chicken marsala. When I went off to college, I’d always ask for her to make it when I was home from breaks. Unfortunately, around that time she also went on a diet, and found a low-fat recipe with a runnier sauce and no breadcrumb coating. Needless to say, it wasn’t the same. Now, when I ask for it she knows I’m asking for the fatty recipe!

    A few others were tacos (lawry’s taco seasoning + ketchup – don’t ask!) and Friday night spaghetti with meaty homemade sauce.

  109. Ruth says...

    Love this! Between Julia Turshen’s “Small Victories” (which I’m adoring), and this, our tummies will be set for years to come. Love the half cake idea, BTW. So fun!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes yes yes, julia’s book is so good too!

  110. Lindsay says...

    Roast beef in the crockpot, mashed potatoes, and corn (usually canned). That was ALWAYD my favorite. My mom would always coincidentally make it when I was sick and it always made me feel better. I still tell her how much I loved it.
    I don’t have children, but a signature meal for my BF and I is pork chops, baked potato, and a green veggie. We eat it at least once a week and always make when his father visits. For us, it’s a quick and comforting meal that I can’t mess up. Will definitely be something that I make forever.

  111. Tracy says...

    My parents are Chinese, born in Burma (they don’t call it Myanmar, so neither do it!), and they moved to northern California in the late 70s where they eventually raised my sister and me. A staple growing up was Mohinga – a Burmese fish noodle soup. It’s something you can eat morning, noon and night. It’s the BEST. My parents make it every time we come back to visit (whether it’s rainy and cold or middle of summer). They’ve made it into frozen “instant packs” so that I can quickly make it at home for my kids (yah I know, I really need to learn how to make it, haha!). It’s such a comforting soup and instantly brings me back to childhood. What’s funny is my daughter cannot get enough of it, but my son refuses to try it! Gotta keep working on him… ;) Loved this, going to check out Jenny’s cookbook!

    • Katherine says...

      This sounds so good!

    • cgw says...

      OMIGOSH!! I could’ve totally written this ^!!! I am Chinese heritage, born in Burma, and my parents and I moved out to SF when I was 8 mos old in the very early 70’s. Funny thing is that as a kid I didn’t like Mohingna as much as I liked the “hand’ Noodle salad, and the Nan Jee Doke. But a strange thing happened. When I got pregnant -but didn’t know it yet, I had this INTENSE craving for Mohingna. I called my mom and asked her to make it (used to be my g’ma who made it, such a long process to make it properly!). She was surprised I asked for it, since it had never been a favorite. I inhaled the batch. A couple of weeks later I realized I was pregnant. Since then I love eating Mohingna (along with other great food/food memories).

  112. I’ll have to get Jenny’s new cookbook. Her approach to cooking is so genuine.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      it really is. she’s relaxed in such a nice way.

  113. Susan says...

    I’m Australian and with Christmas being smack bang in the middle of summer there, it’s waaay too hot to do the traditional Turkey/Plum pudding combo. So we’d always have a BBQ, and for dessert my Mum would always make the most magnificent Pavlova that would be heaped with cream and fruit salad. I live in Canada now, and I’ve continued the tradition of the Festive Pavlova over here.

  114. Morgan says...

    My mom’s homemade macaroni and cheese will always take me back to my childhood. I’m pretty sure I lived on it from the age of 5-10! And my dad’s specialty was his homemade fishcakes and cod au gratin (a Newfoundland classic).

  115. Lindsay says...

    Oh I love this. Food can really transport me, and scents can too. My mom also made chicken Devon regularly! Her dishes got more refined as I grew up. When little it was grilled cheese and tomato soup, as a teenager it was chicken cattiatore, when I was engaged it was salmon with mango salsa. My husband, kids, and I all love our Sunday tradition of a platter with cheeses such as havarti, sharp cheddar, Brie, with ham, salami or prosciutto, mustard, cornichons, grapes and apples and good crusty baguette. I also make schnitzel a lot with lemon dill sauce and roasted potatoes. we love and make a lot of Mexican too.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      chicken devon is the best! :)

  116. yael steren says...

    Whenever I’m home I always ask my mom to make me pancakes for breakfast!!! It’s the best recipe ever!!! As for dinner, it depends what i’m in the mood for. In the summer I love bbq, though that’s not really a recipe I suppose. LOL. xx yael

    http://www.yaelsteren.com/blog/

  117. Pat says...

    Mom’s Spanish pot roast and Spanish chicken and rice; my dad’s veal cacciatore; fried shrimp with mac and cheese or omelets with potatoes and peppers for Lent. And breakfast for dinner!

  118. Kerry says...

    Please don’t let me be the *only* one to say Annie’s Mac and Cheese, in the purple box.

    Some of us moms don’t really, how do you say?, “cook” — so it’s OK if a boxed food eaten in front of the TV from a favorite blue bowl can be its own family ritual.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaha you’re so right! since i don’t cook much (alex does most of the cooking for our family), i initially felt a twinge of guilt, but then i realized that my boys have other kinds of rituals with me: pajama walks where we walk around the block after they have their PJs on, trips to the local library to pick out books, bike rides in the evenings to our local carousel, our christmas vacation to california where we do all the same things each time, etc. so there are many ways to create rituals, of course.

      jenny has a way of being so inspiring and low-key about home cooking, though, that it makes me really want to get into it.

    • I think good memories are the most important thing…

  119. Carolyn says...

    Two of my three favourite bloggers in he world – how cool is it that you are actually friends in real life! I was given Dinner A Love Story a couple of years ago, then bought Playbook, and the DALS philosophy drives meal planning in our three-generation household. And I don’t just mean food philosophy. Both Jenny and Jo are ‘safe hands’ for me as a reader – I’ve come to trust your book recommendations and to look forward to your ruminations on modern life as well. Keep thriving!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so touching, carolyn! thank you so much.

  120. Brooke says...

    My family is Pennsylvania Dutch, and my mom makes an incredible chicken pot-pie, which PA Dutch style, is not a pie, but a soup! It has thick handmade egg noodles, peas, chicken, and lots of parsley. It has become my ultimate comfort food. The week after my son was born, I had little to no appetite. In the darkest moments, my mom made me a batch of her pot pie and it was one of the first moments I felt at peace. The absolute power of food (and mothers).

  121. I so enjoyed reading this! Growing up, we were the family that went out to eat a lot. My mother rarely cooked, since she neither enjoyed it or really had the time since she worked a stressful job in the city by day. My Dad worked nights closer to home, which means he did a majority of the cooking. The number one dish that takes me right back to my childhood is my Dad’s spaghetti. There’s something about that spaghetti that just tastes like home and it’s always a fan favorite when I visit home. My dad would (and to this day) makes it in the same pea green pot. It’s very 70’s looking, but sturdy as can be. It was my Grandmother’s (his Mother’s) pot and I secretly think it’s the pot that makes the whole affair special. Also, I’ve never had spinach artichoke dip as great as my Dad’s!

    Baking is something my mother and I enjoyed doing together, so birthday cakes and holiday cookies always make me think of her and take me back in an instant.

    • SallyK says...

      I also grew up in a family that ate out a lot. My parents were self-employed and usually worked 12-14 hours daily. This was in the 1950s and 1960s. Some of the meals I remember most were from the Woolworth’s lunch counter and one from a restaurant my mom took me to when we went shopping in the next town. I’ve managed to recreate my favorites.

      I also think my mom really didn’t enjoy cooking and maybe just wasn’t a good cook — with a few exceptions. She made an outstanding potato soup and a fantastic potato salad. Actually, she did anything with potatoes well. Dessert specials were angel food cake (from scratch) and bread pudding — not custardy, but more solid It took years after she died (over 50 years ago), but I’ve managed to to figure all of those out as well.

      Jenny mentioned her mom’s chocolate cream pie. Chocolate pudding always came from Jello when I was growing up. On my next trip to the store after reading about the pie, I bought some individual graham cracker pie shells and a small box of pudding. They were really good!

      My own kids I think would say pot roast and tuna noodle casserole made with boxed macaroni and cheese, monster cookies and sour cream sugar cookies.

  122. Awads says...

    I have been cooking from Jenny’s blog and books for a few years now, and they rarely (never?) disappoint! Lately, my signature dish is pasta con ceci, but her meatballs are in our rotation, as well as the pizza (w/easy homemade dough), chili (made last night and will serve again wednesday when we are pressed for time due to soccer practice), meatloaf, lazy bolognese, …really, you can’t go wrong here! I can’t wait to start cooking from this new book, if i can wrestle it away from my new puppy who keeps trying to chew it up (that’s a compliment to the author, i’m sure).

  123. Elizabeth says...

    I definitely have dishes I ask for every time we go back home. My mom’s best recipes are her chicken enchiladas, chicken spaghetti, Sunday pot roast (my dad’s favorite), cranberry coffee cake & coconut cream pie (the last two are reserved only for Christmas, unfortunately)…my mouth is watering just thinking about those dishes!

  124. Brittany says...

    My mom makes the best lasagna and enchiladas. My husband associates chicken and dumplings with his grandmother. My nephew apparently associates BBQ chicken pizza with me. :)

  125. Jessica says...

    My mom is an amazing cook but by far the thing I remember most and loved most was her “Plate of Little Things.” She served us a random assortment of little things: slices of apple, cheese, raisins, nuts, hot-dog, etc. Now that I’m a mom, I realize that’s what she did on days when she had no %&*(#&% clue what to make for dinner! Just goes to show, kids don’t care about fancy!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so so cute! :) i love that she named it.

      my mom would sometimes do a dinner of a bunch of different things on triscuit crackers. we thought it was so much fun.

    • My mom did the same, but with muffin tins. She would put a random assortment of foods in each hole and call it a “party plate.” Now I make them for my kids when I’m too tired to cook! They love it and sometimes will even eat things they wouldn’t normally.

    • This is genius!

    • Debbie says...

      I’m a mum of 3 and I do the same when I’ve run out of ideas of what to cook. We call it a “picnic plate” and the kids love it!!

    • Lisa says...

      Ah, yes. We call that Picnic Dinner. Whether consumed at the table or better yet atop a living room picnic blanket, our boys (and their mom and dad!) love it!

    • R says...

      I tried this after your comment and my daughter LOVED IT. Cornichons, cheese, avocado, roasted broccoli… she ate everything and requested “little things” daily since.

  126. Kelly says...

    My mom made taco salad almost every week. We used to mix together the taco sauce and sour cream to make a creamy, spicy sauce to dip extra tortilla chips in while we talked at the end of the meal. i will always have a special place in my heart for taco salad!

  127. Sarah Beth says...

    I love to cook, and one thing that has been frustrating about my first year as a new mom is there hasn’t been that much time to make dinner for my husband and me. But now that my daughter is nearing 1 and starting to eat the same meals we eat, I’m making it a priority to get back to a few of the dinners that we’ve loved over the years. A few dishes that are constants in our rotation include chicken and corn chowder, roasted chicken with crispy skin served with big sweet potatoes, burrito bowls (in the slow cooker!), and my husbands favorite: chicken thighs baked in marinara sauce, which I can do fancy with homemade sauce, or just throw together with prego in a pinch. We ate family dinner every night growing up (chicken pot pie was my favorite!) and I can’t wait to give that to my daughter.

    • Sarah Beth says...

      One more related tradition that I loved growing up: we had a red plate that said “You are Special Today” around the edges (obviously named “the red plate”) that you got to eat off on your birthday, or if you passed a hard test, or whatever. My brother gave me one for my wedding and I can’t wait to surprise my daughter with it in a few years!
      http://www.redplatestore.com/you-are-special-today-red-plate.aspx

    • Ruth says...

      I’m in the same boat! My daughter is almost one and so far is a great eater. It’s be nice to slowly get back in the kitchen since it’s always been such a comfort and enjoyable experience for me. Here’s to littles learning about mamas (and papas!) who love to cook!

  128. VY says...

    I have a vivid memory of my Russian grandma making my favorite childhood meal: “Makaroni Po Flotsky” or macaroni in the style of the Navy. This was evidently a common dish that was served to Russian sailors aboard ships: diced onion sauteed in butter until golden and browned ground beef, mixed in with elbow macaroni.

    I’ve tried to recreate it as an adult, but nothing ever tasted as good as my babushka’s version.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love this, vy!

  129. My mom used to make a pork loin that was smothered in a sauce made from only a can of saurkraut and a can of cream of chicken soup. Served with mashed potatoes. This is what I remember loving as a kid.
    She also grew up really broke loved (because this was HER mother’s signature meal) to make what she called “potato soup”. I’ve grown to learn that this is not potato soup. It’s basically potato chunks boiled in milky water. ;)

  130. Lisa says...

    I grew up in a family of foodies who love traveling, so trust me when I say we tried everything even as kids.. All food made by my mom (and fancy dinners by dad) is still cherished. I especially love my moms take on spaghetti bolognese – as no one in my family like tomato sauce she has made her own version with fresh tomatoes instead of canned, lots of garlic and a splash of cream. This sauce has made me famous amongst all my friends after moving away from home, everyone love it! Also meatballs. And cinnamon buns (we are Swedish).

  131. This idea is so important to me I started working on signature dishes for my kids before I had kids. We have the big ones; the things you make for holidays or other special days. French toast for breakfast, a giant cheese plate for lunch, and roasted game hens for dinner on Christmas. Warm hard boiled eggs mashed with a bit of butter and salt when you’re not feeling well. Banana pancakes when Dad works on Saturday morning (and breakfast tacos when he doesn’t). They even get a special “kid” dinner on Friday nights (fish sticks or mac and cheese, things I don’t normally allow) and pizza and movie nights on Sunday. During the week I just try to keep it simple and healthy, but I’m realizing those meals will feature in their minds as well. My father traveled almost constantly for work, and my family moved all the time, and as a result family meals and stability and rituals are hugely important parts of my parenting!

    • I always had mashed eggs with butter when I was fussy and I hadn’t met anyone else who likes their eggs that way until I met my partner Graeme :) (and now you!)

    • How funny! My mom made them for me when I was little, and her mom made them for her. It’s such a simple (and delicious) thing, but I think it’s so cool that we’re passing it down through so many generations :)

    • Danielle says...

      Just wanted to chime in on the eggs… My mom did the same thing as did her mom. There’s a story that my dad (who is english) scoffed at eating a soft boiled egg this way but eventually came around. A soft boiled egg is still the first thing I eat when I’m under the weather.

  132. My childhood dish was roast beef, put in the oven when we went to church with my mom. A packet of instant onion soup sprinkled on top; potatoes and carrots all around. Heaven.
    The other dish would be chicken paprikash and dumplings, made by my grandma and sent over for us. Double heaven.
    For us, our kid would probably say strawberry-mushroom risotto (recipe on my blog!). Comfort food with pure summer (aka strawberries).

  133. ASTRID HELEN says...

    Growing up in Norway, with a mother who spent her childhood years in South Africa, we had a mix of traditional Norwegian dinners with a twist. I especially remembers my fathers lamb roast with roasted potatoes and macaroni and cheese, SA – style, a meal my boys love today. I love the thought of what the meals brings in terms of memories and sentiments from our childhood, and how we bring that forward to our kids. I love cooking, and I love the meals where we are all gathered with all its noise and mess. I hope my kids will remember some of our “specialties”, like our apple crumble pie, the lamb roast as my father used to prepare it, our Friday night tacos (a Norwegian thing – “everybody have their taco on Fridays) and our lasagna.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love the idea of friday night tacos!

    • I remember Friday night tacos from the year I lived in Norway! But as a California girl they hardly resembled tacos to me…especially the way Norwegians usually added canned pineapple to theirs! I loved the rice porridge we ate weekly, too, and that seemed to bring back many fond and cozy memories for my Norwegian friends. :)

  134. Dylan says...

    Every Sunday for my entire life has been pasta night. When my New Jersey Italian grandmother moved to Texas 10 years ago, Sunday became family dinner night, where we all went to my grandma’s for dinner. She passed away this past May on a Sunday at my parent’s house where she spent the last few weeks of her life. She didn’t want a funeral or service. Instead, because everyone was already over at the house to say their goodbyes, we had our big family Sunday dinner in her honor, sharing our favorite stories and memories. It’s the Sunday Dinner that I will never forget, and although it was the saddest day of my life, the pasta, bread, and family made everything a little bit easier.

    • Tina says...

      Awww so sorry for your loss. She sounded wonderful.

  135. Hil says...

    Love this! I don’t have kids but I’m a big believe in family dinners and traditions. My childhood dishes were pesto, chili, and spaghetti sauce. My mom gave me the recipe for all of them before my wedding and my husband loves them too. I make them whenever I need something cozy and comforting.

  136. Nothing beats my mom’s homemade tacos. Chicken divan was also a staple in my home growing up! As was a dish we called Oodles and Boodles of Beefy Noodles. Haha. These three dishes always remind me of home.

  137. Colleen says...

    My mom made casseroles and open faced beef sandwiches on rye bread. I asked for lasagna for my birthday and she said it was too hard, but she came through on birthday cake. We used to bake choc chip cookies and sample dough. She’s gone now, but I make my husband’s favorites from his mom and look up my own stuff. Meatloaf, egg burritos, tuna cass stole are some my kids like.

  138. emily says...

    My brother always insists on my mom’s pot roast for his birthday dinner, even though his birthday is in July. There is nothing that feels like home quite as much as that beloved pot roast. My husband associates her amazing bbq ribs or lamb chops with orange sauce with seeing my family and I remember salmon and a simple salad with red onion and mandarin orange slices with the family table. We joke about the way she starts asking what we want for dinner weeks before a visit, but she’s an incredible cook and all three of us look forward to those dinners more than any fancy restaurant.

  139. Kelsey says...

    I read it this weekend as well and I loved it! We made the Salmon with Yogurt Sauce for dinner last night and it was fantastic.

  140. Charlotte K says...

    Half cake on half birthday. Genius.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      another bonus is that we can eat the other half of the cake after the boys go to bed ;)

  141. Laura says...

    my mum makes an amazing dark chocolate pavlova topped with strawberries, raspberries and freshly whipped cream for dessert every Christmas Day :) it’s heavenly, and so special.

    She also makes the BEST chocolate chip cookies. a tradition in our house growing up was her asking ‘want a cookie for the road?’ everyone leaving the house was offered a ‘cookie for the road’ too :)

    • Jess. says...

      Oh my goodness, that cookie tradition is the sweetest thing! The pav sounds nice, too. ;)

  142. Julia says...

    I am from Germany and the one dish I absolutely loved being served after school was Frikadellen (big tasty meetballs) with fried potatoes and carrots.

  143. Leah says...

    My dad (who is a picky eater and enjoys meat, pasta, and potatoes) traveled frequently, and while he was away my mom (who is a great cook) would have more freedom to experiment.

    Our favorite was when she made corn chowder: we thought it was the fanciest soup you could make! It always seemed like a Girls Night when she made it.

  144. Whitney says...

    My mom’s repertoire included chicken divan (no cheese, add curry powder), chili with kidney beans and a side of Jiffy cornbread, and pasta salad with Italian dressing. Every family get together (about twice a year) my mom still makes our three favorites to welcome us home. Her pasta salad is a summer icon -I put my own twist on it and serve it to my kids every year with sliced melon. I also make loaf after loaf of banana bread because it’s my son’s favorite. I’ll probably send it to him when he goes off to college someday.

    • Cynthia says...

      You definitely will, Whitney! I made an old-school pound cake in a Bundt pan all through my sons’ childhood. I learned when they were in college that it packs and ships beautifully! My sons are both snowboarders and went to college in CO…one time my son found a piece of poundcake in foil in his snow pants from a few weeks earlier and gobbled it down, saying it was as good as ever. Another son’s friend once called me on my cell phone (no idea how he got my number) from grad school and asked if I could send him a pound cake! Which of course I did.

  145. i love the idea of a dish representing childhood- especially because it is so true! my mom makes a mean “taco pie”-so midwestern!

    i’ve got fall wardrobe must haves for baby on my blog!
    http://www.brittanyisablob.blogspot.com

  146. Mallory says...

    I have never loved a cookbook so much! I preordered it on amazon months ago. The day it arrived, I cleared my schedule, poured a class of wine, and read it all in one sitting. I cried three times! It is a cookbook! Jenny so beautifully captures the recipe for dishes AND the recipe for rituals.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that, mallory. i’m sure jenny will be really touched.