Food

11 Great Reader Comments on Food

Goldie Hawn

In the past, we’ve featured brilliant reader comments on parenting, friendship and career. Today, we’re talking about food. Here are 11 insights on everything from party ice breakers to dining solo…

On conversation starters:

“My husband and I recently had a night to ourselves, and he came up with a game where we’d blurt out a number, say 12, and the other person had to tell a story about something that happened to them at that age. It was great digging into the nooks and crannies of our brains for stories we still hadn’t told each other!” — Candice

“At a recent work event, we all shared something about our names. It was incredible hearing stories of names passed down from past generations, or how someone’s mom read the name in a trashy book but loved it anyway. Everyone seemed comfortable talking about that topic, but the stories got really personal and I loved it!” — Caley

On dining solo:

“Dining alone is one of my most indulgent practices. When I met my fiancé, I had to lightly explain that I wanted to enjoy my favorite meal, alone. He’s come to appreciate it. I still go about once a week.” — Antoinette

“I dined out alone while traveling solo and it felt thrilling to let myself linger over my meal. Back in the U.S., I’ve recently found a middle ground by arriving an hour early for weeknight group dates. I bring a book and tell the host it’s just me for now, but will eventually be more, and if there’s room, they’ll give me the big table, or I’ll sit at the bar and wait. I read a book, slowly sip a glass of wine, and get some introvert time between work and friends.” — Katie

On being a restaurant regular:

“When I married my husband, I was indoctrinated into his family’s Thursday night ritual of wings and beer at a local dive bar. Every single Thursday, we would meet his parents, brother, sister-in-law, baby niece and even sometimes grandmother for greasy fries and messy wings, always delivered by our beloved waitress Natasha. When we received the horrifying news that our sweet one-year-old niece had brain cancer, all the servers chipped in and gave us a beautiful care package filled with baby slippers, toys and books to make her hospital stay more bearable. Every week after, they huddled around our table, asking for the latest news. When she was finally well enough after surgery to join us once again on Thursday night, you would have thought the queen herself was eating at Clay’s Sports Bar.” — Sarah

“For the last year, our family has had breakfast at a neighborhood spot every Saturday morning. It’s three blocks from our house, and we walk or ride our bikes. We’ve developed friendships with the small staff, and we’re always bumping in to neighbors there. It has become our ‘third place,’ so to speak, and we look forward to it all week.” — Sophie

On low-key entertaining:

“In a pinch, the Ghiradelli boxed brownie mix is a dessert lifesaver. Everyone always thinks it’s homemade. Serve with the best vanilla ice cream you can find.” — Joy

“My first dinner party decades ago was Hamburger Helper lasagna. I’ve been through the whole Martha perfection stage and am now in my Ina just-roll-with-it stage.” — Cynthia

“Always think about ‘abundance’ when plating appetizers. For example, take all the things that you have and stack them and mound them up all on one larger tray, creating height and texture. It automatically feels fancy, and people will complement your appetizer skills, even if you didn’t cook or bake anything on the tray.” — Allison

On childhood memories:

“My parents both worked in special education, and looking back, I think they felt inclined to celebrate the small things. They made a big deal out of breakfasts for each holiday. We always had green eggs and corned beef scramble on St. Patrick’s Day, 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 us feel so special.” — Katie

“My mom 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! Even if the meal itself was just meatloaf, my sister and I would get so excited. My eyes get teary thinking about my lovely mom trying hard to make everyday things special for us.” — Katherine

What tips and rituals do you swear by? I’d love to hear…

P.S. The best reader comments of all time, and a very easy dinner party.

(Photo of Goldie Hawn.)

  1. Tammi Dower says...

    Wondering if you could freeze the scoop amount and then have them read to go into the mug…I am trying it! you could make a box and then freeze each amount for instant lava cakes too.

  2. Claire says...

    Now that the weather is warming up, our otherwise lovely flat has become a furnace (UK reader here, AC is not a common feature in houses). On evenings when it gets too hot, my boyfriend and I will make dinner as usual before packing it up along with some blankets, water (or rosé!) and walking 5 minutes to our local park or beach front to eat there.
    Somehow, a mid-week picnic dinner makes the warmer months a bit more magical.

  3. Jen says...

    there’s so many places I go to on the internet to grow and COJ has always been at the top of my list. thanks for creating this wonderful community. coming here feels like setting down my keys after a long day, sometimes.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh, jen, that means so much to me. thank you.

  4. Nally says...

    For the first and last day of school and birthdays my mom made us brown sugar sandwiches. She expressly bought white bread (a no no in our house…) and slathered it with butter and brown sugar, which after being in your book bag or locker for a few hours is awesome and crystallized. traditions are the best, I’ve shared this one with friends and just celebrated a birthday with a brown sugar sandwich…

  5. Molly says...

    I love these comments so much. Reading them made me think of my own magical memories of food, and this one immediately came to mind.

    I grew up in North Carolina in a house without air conditioning. The summers were intense. As my Mom still says “It’s hot. Lord, hot.” It was so hot, that sister and I used to shower before bed and try to fall asleep before our bodies dried off! But during those summers, when Dad was traveling for work, Mom would let us rent 5 old movies for $5 from the movie store, and we’d eat cucumber & cream cheese sandwiches (with the crusts cut off) and frozen yogurt for dinner!

    Now I realize that it was just too dang hot to use the stove, but we loved it!

  6. I love this post! Especially the posts about being regulars. From the other side, I’m a server at a small restaurant and my favorite part of every shift is seeing a regular come in. Getting to know our guests is so warm and as nice as it is for the guest. I love asking about customers lives: how their move went, their trips, how their kids are doing etc.. I’m so connected to so many individuals because of the restaurant – so many people I would never have known if I didn’t work there. The relationships that can come out of it are amazing. One guest is currently connecting me with professors to help with my senior thesis and then another is advising me on my trip to Rome!

    • Kate says...

      I could have written this exact comment. I serve at a very small farm to table restaurant and knowing my regular customers is the best part of the job.

  7. I’m still thinking about the original post on the slumber party and determined to add some small and memorable touches to life this season… thinking about the summer solstice and looking for a fun way to celebrate with a 2, 5 and8 year old.

  8. Elizabeth says...

    That last comment about the upside-down dinners is the sweetest. Moms deserve all the praise in the world.

  9. Brianna says...

    I had to go back and look at the author of this post. I’m so used to seeing Joanna, Caroline, and Stella that I didn’t even notice. Welcome, Franny!

    These stories are so fun. I wish my family had had more traditions when I was growing up.

  10. Marie says...

    Those Ghiradelli’s brownies were my mom’s secret weapon and she brought them to every party. I have carried on the tradition and people always think you are so fancy (at least when I have my friends in their mid-20s over who would never think about dessert).

    My new fave is the boxed blondies from TJs! My grandma has made blondies for years that we all love. Never thought I’d say this, but the box is BETTER!

    • Cynthia says...

      Serve the brownies with a gelato bar. I put out several containers of various flavors of talenti gelato and let guests choose their own. The empties also make great storage containers.

    • Phyllis Mata says...

      And if you mix 2 different types of the brownies, it’s even better and even fancier.

  11. Blythe says...

    The Manners Game was a favorite ritual in my house. We’d light candles, put on fancy music, I’d don a play dress and we’d sit down for dinner. (Never anything fancy usually hamburger helper or spaghetti). Everyone got a set amount of points at the top of the dinner and you got points deducted for not having proper manners – elbows on the table, talking with food in your mouth, farting at the table (I have two younger brothers). It was such a special time for family bonding AND we got a little etiquette + math lesson. (You had to keep track of your own points.) I can’t wait to have kids of my own and play the Manners Game one day!

  12. Growing up we had dairy dinners– fish, or pasta– and were given milk to drink. On meat dinners- we had juice or water. Never soda. One night- for dairy dinner– my mother served waffles and ice cream with hot fudge and wet nuts. and that became a regular treat.
    So now that I have children- when we were at a NJ shore vacation, we always went at least once a summer for Dairy Dinner– and I often served it at home. Now that my kids are in their twenties- they think they are too grown up for dairy dinner– So once a summer , at least, my 60 something girlfriend and I go out for Dairy Dinner– coffee ice cream, fresh waffles, hot fudge, and wet dinner. My daughter knows that my new granddaughter will behaving dairy dinner

    My niece- at age 8- was invited to stay for dinner at a friend’s house for dairy dinner She started to sob, when dinner of flounder was served. Not the dairy dinner she expected that her mom learned to serve. We still joke about her failed Dairy Dinner

    • JoLynn says...

      Very interesting. I have never heard of a dairy dinner or wet nuts. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jane S says...

      Kosher families can not mix meat and milk, so a dairy dinner will allow you to serve milk as a drink. Dairy dinner might be fish, pasta, or any vegetarian entree

      Lovers of ice cream sundaes know wet nuts— usually walnuts in a sugary or maple looking syrup/ liquid. Very yummy on ice cream

  13. Holly says...

    This isn’t a tip or ritual, but a sweet memory… When my husband and I met in San Francisco one of the first things he said to me as we were falling in love was “I like your taste.” This could have been an eye-rolling deal-breaker if he meant my taste in HIM, but he meant my taste in FOOD or my food (taste) buds as he tried to explain! I can still smell and taste all of our favorite meals from that time and because good food and cooking mean a lot to both of us this has always felt like the highest of compliments.

  14. The story about Upside Down Dinners made me think of my favorite meal routine when my sister and I were growing up. Every Friday night we’d have a picnic in front of the TV–a big deal since we weren’t allowed to watch TV during the week. We’d stop by the grocery store, head to the nearby video store to pick out our entertainment for the weekend (man, that makes me feel old), and set up a towel in front of the living room TV in case we spilled. Then we’d eat a regular Friday dinner, nothing special, on the floor, while our parents chilled in the kitchen and talked about grownup things. Our backs always hurt by the end of the night, but it was so much fun we didn’t care.

  15. Ramona says...

    Wow! Every one of those comments speak volumes! Love ’em! When our two children were teenagers we had a longtime tradition of having tacos on Saturday nights. Sometimes planned, sometimes not (but it just worked out that way) Fast forward 15 years (after college and their marriages) and they were both in town on a Saturday night. Yep, we had tacos! Little did we know that it would be our last taco night together. Our daughter passed 2 months later from pancreatic cancer. I am so glad to have that memory be a part of our family history forever.

    • Nora says...

      Ramona, I am so very sorry for the loss of your daughter. xo

    • Gemma says...

      I’m sorry as well. Sending my love <3

    • Ramona says...

      Thank your for your kind words, Nora and Gemma. God Bless.

    • JoLynn says...

      Ramona, Thank you for sharing your family taco tradition. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m so glad you have wonderful family memories to comfort you.

  16. Maire says...

    My husband and I are restaurant regulars at our local falafel joint. There is a slight language barrier sometimes, but whenever we come in, the owner shakes our hands, seats us, and brings us a beautiful tea service on the house. I go there whenever I need to eat my feelings because the food is actually fairly healthy and the staff always takes such good care of me- tea, cake, and love from my friends!

    • lesley says...

      we are regulars at a deli near our house and all the guys know my kids’ names. going in there makes our day every time.

    • Andrea says...

      My bodega guy made me bring in my Mom when she visited a few weeks back. He even offered her a free water! That’s crazily generous, since he only works there.

  17. Eeeeek! Thanks for highlighting my appetizer comment. I’m flattered! I work in the food industry so I’ve made an appetizer plate or two, ha. Here’s a pic of a SUPER casual one that I did in the park over memorial day weekend, if anyone wants to see the abundance theory in action: https://www.instagram.com/p/BjU7e6bl3Qu/?taken-by=itsalliball

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      so beautiful, allison!!!

    • Marguerite says...

      Love your platter architecture!

    • Adriana says...

      Wow! Looks amazing! I love the abundance theory. In my experience, aside from looking impressive, making appetizers look abundant also makes guests feel more comfortable eating as much as they like of any given item.

  18. Alison says...

    The most beloved food memory that sticks in my mind is my mom’s Christmas Eve dinners. We would have only small finger food/appetizers like shrimp cocktail, crudités, my grandma’s buttermilk fried chicken wings (all the more special b/c my mom is uber-health concious and we NEVER got fried food), cheese and crackers, etc. My mom, sister, and grandparents would sit in the living room around a fire and eat/drink all night then play charades.

    Now that my grandparents are gone and my sister and I live on opposite sides of the country, it’s hard to maintain this tradition but we still manage to once every few years or so. It’s a tradition I plan on passing down to my future children one day :)

  19. Rachel says...

    These are all such great stories! My siblings and I grew up in a quasi-kosher home, but when we visited our maternal grandmother all bets were off. In addition to eating BACON and shrimp at her house, she also bought sugary cereals for us (Applejacks!) that we were never allowed at home. I was not particularly close to my grandmother, but just by having those special foods on hand for us, I now have fond memories of visiting her.

    My mom really made an effort in the kitchen for us and her thoughtfulness in that regard will always stay with me. We lived in a very small, Southern town without a lot of ethnic food options available (e.g. we grew up eating ketchup on our tacos, I think because salsa was not yet available in our local grocery!). About every six weeks, my mom would make a grand Chinese food feast (stirfry, szechaun chicken salad, egg drop soup) from scratch. She even served it in special dishes that she bought at an import store in the big city and taught us all to use chopsticks!

  20. Kris says...

    Yes! Ghiradelli box brownies are really good! I’ve made it for family parties and people rave about them. I’m like, uh they’re box brownies. Now, I buy them when they’re on sale and bring them to parties! I recently baked one with Ghiradelli dark chocolate chip cookies mix layered on top (apparently a brownie cookie) for our neighbor’s birthday and it was a hit (I saved a few pieces for myself, lol).

  21. About once a week, if there’s nothing to cook or a lot of leftovers, or I’m just feeling lazy, we’ll have ‘Fend For Yourself Night.’ Make whatever you want to eat for yourself and clean it up. I’ll usually have popcorn and my son will make an egg bagel sandwich.

    • Anna says...

      That’s what my mom always called it!

    • That’s exactly what we call it at our home. Our kids love it. Also, about every six months or so, I announce you can get whatever drive-thru food you want. I haul everyone around town, and we just hit the restaurants they like. In AZ, we hit up In/Out Burger, Chipotle and Jamba Juice in one night. The kids really feel like they’ve made out.

    • Trina says...

      Oh my word, I need to start doing this!! I love this idea and my kiddos will love this idea!

    • Meredith says...

      My family still calls this “grab and growl” night, which is a term stolen from a classmate when my sister and I were in middle school. He said it so nonchalantly in conversation but also demonstrated ‘grabbing’ whatever was left in the fridge and ‘growling’ to keep siblings at bay. That image will forever be etched into my memory!

  22. Samantha says...

    When my boyfriend and I first started dating I randomly, casually mentioned that cannolis are my favorite dessert. Several months later on Valentine’s Day he showed up at my house with HOMEMADE cannolis. Like, made the shells and everything. I went to pastry school, so no one ever really makes desserts for me, so this was extra super special.

  23. Nancy says...

    One thing from childhood that sticks out for me is when we would eat around the coffee table in the living room. Sometimes it was take-out Chinese food, but other times it was bacon and cheese toasts with some raw veggies on the side. Eating somewhere other than the dining room just made it feel that much more special, but in all honesty, my mom was probably too tired after work to deal with clearing off the dining room table, especially if she had a project spread out. While I love the idea of themed meals at Valentine’s day and other secondary holidays for my own family, I never seem to get my act together with the exception of April Fools Day (go figure). I would make cupcakes for dinner made of meatloaf with mashed potato frosting and a cherry tomato on top; my kids loved it.

  24. Steph says...

    Growing up, my mom would make us different color-themed meals just for fun. On “orange day” we would have mac n cheese, orange slices, and carrot sticks. On “green day” we would have spinach quesadillas, green grapes, and celery sticks. Purple day I remember some blueberry pancakes and purple grapes. I also remember quite a bit of different flavored jellos and kool-aids. :)

    • Sylvia says...

      Such a cool idea!

    • Karen says...

      Putting this in my future-mom memory bank!!

  25. Maggie says...

    My favorite food is, and always has been, macaroni and cheese (as a kid my family even called me Magaroni). So for a few birthdays in my twenties, I hosted a ‘Mac and Cheese Cook Off’. Everyone brought a different mac and cheese and we voted at the end. We had up to 11 entries, including many creative and super delish options: spicy mac, some with meat, fried balls, a Mex-aroni, we even had a dessert mac one year. Folks loved it and we presented awards at the end: the Mac Daddy (best over all) and Daddy Mac (most creative). For my part, I’d make a table of healthy, non-cheesy things like kale salad, grilled asparagus and baked lemon chicken. Everyone was so full and so happy, and my friends still talk about it. I might need to bring it back this year!

    • Luna says...

      What an awesome idea!
      My Husband loves Mac and Cheese.
      I made it for him once, he wasn’t convinced. lol
      But this gives me a wonderful idea about his Birthday in a few months, which I’m stumped with.

  26. Lauren E. says...

    My parents were huge on family traditions and one of my favorites was going to cut down our Christmas tree at a Christmas tree farm way out in the sticks of Western NY. They’d pack snacks, we’d make the long drive, climb onto the wagon hitched to a tractor, and drive way out to the middle of a snowy pine tree grove and cut one down (just like the Griswolds!). It was another tradition I had no idea my parents started because cutting down your own tree is significantly cheaper than buying one on the lot.

  27. Beth says...

    I’m putting upside down dinner in my back pocket for my 3 kids this summer! They will love it. Thanks!! :)

    • Margaux says...

      me too!!! so great.

    • Barbara says...

      Me too! How amazing is that?:)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! so inspired!

  28. Marlena says...

    Sarah’s story about her Thursday dive bar ritual reminds me of my dad so much! Growing up, no matter where we went, the wait staff always knew my dad. It could be the local Thai hole-in-the-wall, the greasy food counter in the back of a gas station, or Olive Garden… he received the same welcome – “Hey Doug!” – when we walked in. When he passed, after the memorial we all went to his favorite restaurant, Bertram’s, in Salmon, Idaho and every server came alongside us during the meal and cried and laughed and shared stories about my dad. They even served his favorite ice cream, mint chocolate chip, complementary in memory of him. It was so touching and I had honestly forgotten about it until I read Sarah’s story. Thank you for this!

    • A Martin says...

      So sweet!! Tears in my eyes ❤️

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, what a beautiful moment, marlena. your dad sounds like a wonderful person.

    • Luna says...

      This is why I support our Local Businesses. They will want to know your name and treat you and your own like family Thanks for sharing.

  29. My mom celebrated little holidays like no other. We put pink and red hearts all over the kitchen each Valentines Day and delivered May Day baskets on May 1 and always got to pick our favorite dinner for our birthdays. My boyfriend (now husband!) was in shock when I casually whipped up some green pancakes on St. Patricks Day when we were first dating. I was like, what? It’s St. Patrick’s Day.

    • Luna says...

      Lol. I’m just picturing your boyfriend’s face at the time.

  30. Meghan says...

    Have you ever seen the movie Mermaids, with Cher? In it she plays a character who only makes hors d’œuvres, so her daughters’ dinner is a platter of pigs in a blanket and meatball skewers on toothpicks. Inspired by this, and my cousin who is famous for filling up on appetizers and skipping dinner, the first night of family vacations is always Appetizer Dinner. We stock up on frozen stuff from American Costco (always exciting for Canadians – we have Costco, but the variety is not nearly the same) and then go to town. The best part about it is that because they’re small bites, we end up lingering around the table far longer than we would if it was just a regular meal. It’s a perfect way to change the pace from everyday hectic to vacation laidback.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that!!!!

    • Gemima says...

      Love that film!
      Think I will dig it up for the weekend.

    • Summer says...

      Appetizer Dinners are the best!

  31. Bethanne says...

    This has nothing to do with anything, but the girl on the right, in the yellow glasses, looks exactly like me…I can’t look away :-o

  32. Jess says...

    Former server/bartender and fellow introvert here – although I love the idea of getting some solitude before a group arrives, one person sitting at a large table before the rest of the group gets there for an hour or so unfortunately can dock that server’s pay by about $20-$50, some times more depending on the day/time and caliber of restaurant. Even if the host offers the table, sitting at a bar is definitely a much better option! Although do keep in mind that your bartender is there to make money too;)

    Also, I’m totally totally obsessed with the upside down meal idea! Definitely going to do that once I have kiddies. Such a sweet memory!

    • erin says...

      HA! This is exactly what I thought. Once a server, always a server. I should add I will likely put this into practice at the bar sometime soon. I like the mental reset it sounds like.

  33. Speaking of the Ghirardelli brownie mix, if you prepare it, and scoop about an ice cream scoop’s worth into a mug, and microwave it for 1 minute, you have instant mug brownies! It’s so comforting with a scoop of ice cream, especially in the winter time :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      done and done :) thank you, sandra.

    • Stephanie says...

      Thank you for this!

  34. Growing up, my parents made pizza every Friday. No pizza in the world (and I live in Jersey) is as good as my parents’ pizza. Usually some neighbors and their kids would come over to share it. Today, on weekends when the whole family’s at the house, Friday nights we don’t have to even ask what’s for dinner — it’s homemade pizza. Last summer some of our old neighbors who had since moved away were in town and we had pizza in the backyard like we always had growing up, except with new little kids around. It was so wonderful. My parents have since confessed that they made pizza every Friday because it was cheaper than buying pizza — as teachers they didn’t have a ton of money when we were little so had to get creative with rituals. We had no idea that was the reason! I hope to create rituals like this with my kids someday!

    • Samantha Blackmer says...

      Hi Mary Kate! Do you have a dough recipe (any tips/tricks are so welcome!) that you could share? I’m always on the hunt for a great one that’s tried and true!

    • Lauren E. says...

      My parents also claimed they did a lot of things because we were “broke”! But I had no idea. My mom recently tried to apologize for our “meager” Christmases when meanwhile, those are some of my absolute favorite memories. I never wanted for anything.

  35. i will never forget playing outside with my little brother one hot august evening and my mom running outside yelling it’s time for dinner. when we were walking inside she said guess what we’re having, and then yelled “popcorn and watermelon!!” we were so thrilled and laughed so hard. i still think about that moment and imagine reliving it with my son and daughter when the moment is just right.

    • Kristy says...

      that is so, so sweet.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, i love that. tearing up!

  36. Nicole says...

    What an uplifting way to start my day! Reader comments here are the best in the business. I loved this post, and to the Cup of Jo staff, you dazzle me with your content and imagery. Thank you for ALL you do!

  37. Heather says...

    Loved this post, but who is Franny?? A new friend for us??? Cool name!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      we will let you know soon :) :) :) :) :) :)

  38. Nora says...

    These are fantastic!
    My favorite childhood food tradition was popcorn night every Sunday. We would all rush to finish our work and chores before 6pm and then the kids would shower and get in our pajamas while my parents made caramel popcorn. We would make a big tray of our favorite snacks (crackers with cheese and pickles, apples with peanut butter, etc.) and ice cream floats. Then we’d take it all out to the living room and watch America’s Funniest Home Videos together. We weren’t allowed to watch much TV, so this was a real break from the normal rules to watch silly video clips while eating delicious treats that we never got during the middle of the week. It was a great way to unwind, reset before the next week began, and laugh together while sharing a special meal. Now I’m pregnant with my first child and I can’t wait to re-instate Sunday popcorn nights!

  39. Blair says...

    Re: Low-Key Entertaining: Ghirardelli boxed brownie mix IS definitely a lifesaver! Everyone I’ve ever made them for thinks it’s homemade, and it’s the best.

    Another thing I’ve learned about hosting is that no one really cares whether you made everything from scratch, or how fancy it is. They just care that you took the time to invite them over, to tidy the house (most of the time), and to feed them. There’s a lot of love involved, and I think people feel that.

    • Jessa says...

      For real, Ghirardelli boxed mix was my go-to any time we had guests as a young married couple! Over the years I got much more into cooking and baking, and now our kids (almost 8 and 5) take so much pride in making dessert from scratch. BUT I am currently 7 months pregnant with our third, and the reminder of that mix is giving me some serious chocolate cravings! I think we’ll have to have ourselves some slightly under-baked chocolate chip brownies this week (and a few boxes on hand since who has the time to bake with a newborn coming!?)

    • Kris says...

      I’ve had so many compliments on my Ghirardelli boxed brownie mix that I always have one on hand for a last-minute party dish. They also have a cookie mix that I layer over the brownie mix – also really good!

  40. Heather D says...

    I love Candice’s idea for new conversation starters for her and her husband. After 14 years together, sometimes I feel like we’ve run out of things to talk about! This gives me hope for new, interesting dinner conversations. =)

  41. Emma says...

    I have a tip that I just discovered that’s too good not to share. I used to find myself in so many food situations where no one in the group would make a decision (what restaurant to go to, flavor of ice cream to bring home, movie to watch after dinner, etc.). No one wants to be the one to decide! So I quietly listen to all the choices being thrown around, and then I say, “How about I pick three and everyone votes.” For whatever reason people are always cool with saying their real opinion when it’s structured like that! If it’s a situation where my husband and I really just want what our guest wants I’ll have everyone whisper their vote and then I always pick the guest’s. It works for 2 year olds up to 80 year olds!

    • Nina says...

      That’s smart! Thanks for sharing!

    • Kim says...

      My friends and I do a variation of this. One will give several options and the everyone else will veto one of the restaurants off the list. That way we end up with an option that is generally well liked.

  42. Amy says...

    I’m definitely trying the upside-down dinner idea with my daughter – she’d LOVE it! Thanks for the idea Katherine, your mother sounds awesome.

  43. becs says...

    Wait, who is Franny? Hi Franny!

    I want to say, “Welcome to the blog!” as if it’s my blog, haha! I guess that just goes to show how your readers feel like we have a special place here. :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      awwww :) we’re excited to do a staff update soon!

  44. Megan says...

    My mom had the best trick. Brownie mix (Ghiradelli is the best but any will work), bake in a miniature muffin pan and, when the brownies are hot from the oven, insert a Reese’s cup in the middle. This garners endless compliments and people find it very impressive. And unwrapping the Reese’s cup is the perfect job for little helpers.

  45. Thank you for sharing your experience. . :)

  46. I have to confess: sometimes I come more for the reader comments.

    • Karen says...

      i do too :)

    • Miruska says...

      me too, love this blog

    • Stella says...

      I know it would be more work, but I thought they could have a community forum. The idea was cemented when so many people were commenting on having Cup o’ Jo meetups/book clubs. So many of us read (almost) ALL the comments. Great conversation starting posts!!

    • Gemima says...

      I confess, sometimes I read the Comments before the Article.

      Just from reading the Comments, I can easily lose an hour or two. Great for those nights I can’t sleep….. I get a block while reading….. when I finally get time to myself.

  47. Anna says...

    I worked at the same restaurant for 4 years while I went to college in a small town, and eight years later I’m still good friends with some of my regular customers. I got my first job out of college from one of them, nannyed for another family that came in regularly, and several gave me graduation gifts before I left! When I go back to visit, I make it a point to see some of my old regulars:) They were my varied community while I was at school, it helped me stay focused and also feel at home.

  48. Peggy Williams says...

    These fond memories shared bring back such happy moments I recall from my childhood. My mother always made everything seem so effortless, but now looking back, she worked so hard to ensure that my dad, my siblings, and I were loved and we’ll taken care of. Thanks for sharing all your sweet moments and bringing tears to my eyes thinking of all the love my mom put into everything she did!

  49. Hillary says...

    I learned a hosting trick from my uncle, who I always thought was pure elegance. During cocktail hour at his house, he serves champagne or sparkling wine. Since adopting this, I’ve received so many compliments and many friends now do the same. It makes any occasion feel extra special, whether that’s a fancy multi-course dinner party or a casual girls night.

  50. Sarah says...

    I am from Atlanta! Clay’s is the best. And I’m thrilled to report that our niece’s treatment has been successful so far, and she’s grown into a happy, healthy 3-year-old little girl.

    • Thuy says...

      Aw thank you for sharing!!

    • J Rooney says...

      That’s great news!!

    • Milli says...

      That’s wonderful! I was wondering and it’s lovely to hear that

    • Catherine says...

      So glad to hear!!

    • Claire says...

      Brilliant! so happy to know this!

    • Zm says...

      ❤️

    • Carrie says...

      My little brother is also a childhood brain cancer survivor. He is now a 27 year old man, and honest to God the smartest person I know in real life when his prognosis said the opposite would be true. He just graduated from Oregon State last year with his masters in public health. I’m so happy to hear about your niece. I remember those days, watching my parents go through that… I’m glad I was only a child, because the gravity of it would have been a terrible burden to bear. Thank God for doctors and medicine. Bless you and your family.

    • A Martin says...

      Aw your comment was my favorite and brought tears to my eyes. So happy your niece is doing well!!!! There is something so special about finding a place that is part of a family ritual. I want to find that place for my family and me ❤️

    • Sally says...

      I’m so glad to hear it:)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so wonderful, sarah! what a huge relief, i’m sure. she sounds like she had the best support system with your beautiful family.

  51. Kim says...

    There was a ~5 year period of my childhood where I exclusively ate chicken fingers and caesar salad. A few weeks after telling my now-husband this story, when we were still newly dating, I was really upset about something at work and came home to an “elevated childhood favorites” dinner of buttermilk breaded, baked chicken tenders and a fancy kale caesar with shaved parmesan and homemade croutons. We’ve been together 6 years and I still think about how thoughtful and sweet that was.

    • Marianne says...

      I had a similar story with my now-husband. We had been dating for around a month and I must have mentioned my love of macaroni cheese and giant jelly strawberries (not together I hasten to add!) Come Valentine’s Day I went round to his flat and was greeted with mac&cheese and a bag of the strawberries. So sweet and romantic, I still talk about it now nearly 10 years later!

    • Meg says...

      I, too, had a very long caesar salad + chicken fingers phase!! (Okay, so I’m still not out of the caesar salad phase, 30 years later…) I love that your husband keyed in to these comfort foods for you. How thoughtful!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, these stories!!!! they’re making my day. xoxoxo

  52. CCStahl says...

    I sat my 3 city grandchildren on my porch floor in a circle and came out with 1/2 gallon of ice cream and 4 spoons. We ate it all.
    City meets country and it was simply delicious. They felt delightfully naughty.

  53. Jennifer Kozel says...

    One of my favorite dinner party memories: I forgot to get appetizers, so I cut up a few different kinds of granola bars into tiny squares. I’ve never gotten so many compliments on an appetizer before or since.

    • Joanna Schuth says...

      Oh girl HIGH FIVE! That’s the best.

    • Amy says...

      This made me chuckle out loud! What a funny story and clever idea!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaha love!!

  54. Elizabeth Rue says...

    Hey! I am from Sandy Springs too. I normally go to Wing Factory but I will check out Clay’s!

  55. Erika says...

    I agree with Sarah! Being a restaurant regular is an opportunity to build connections, small and large, and pass kindness along. The older I get, the more I realize life is a web, we are all utterly tangled up — so make those connections better and stronger and more beautiful! And food is the best way to do that :)

  56. Libbynan says...

    Back in the 50s when I was in grade school and had many younger cousins, at Christmas my grandpa would buy this HUGE Hershey bar….it must have been 2 or 3 pounds. Every night while the family was visiting, he would take all of us kids into the kitchen and carve off little pieces for us to eat. It was such a treat….we all thought it was the best thing ever! All of the surviving cousins (I’m the oldest at 70) still remember that tradition fondly.

    • I’m so thankful you shared this! My grandmother was friendly with someone who worked in a chocolate factory and every year she’d get a multipoint bar and share it with us at Christmas – carving it up in the same way <3

      I haven't thought about that probably 20 years…

    • JO says...

      What is it about grandparents and food?? Every Thanksgiving until he passed away eight years ago, my grandfather carved the turkey and snuck me a piece before dinner. I’m 36 and no holiday food has or could ever taste as perfect as that ritual piece of secret turkey in my grandparents’ kitchen.

    • Amy says...

      Jo, I totally agree! I can’t help but wonder if it’s because there were no food taboos, no obsessions with health and healthy eating, just providing the best they could with lots of love. I try so hard to provide wonderful food memories for my own children because that’s what my mom and grandparents did for me and my sisters. I don’t want them to remember meal times as strict, no nonsense, healthy meals. I want them to remember good flavors, laughter and special family foods!

  57. M says...

    Re: conversation starter/food… I recently realized I didn’t know all of my siblings’ (+ their spouses’) and parents’ favorite foods, so had a group text asking their favorite foods and desserts. It was a lot of fun! And I learned that people tend to think of breakfast foods as their own category… so need to ask favorite breakfast foods, favorite food, and favorite dessert to cover all the bases.

  58. Such a lovely post; these inspire me to create more new traditions! Thanks for sharing and curating!

  59. Amy says...

    Love these comments! I don’t care very much for flowers so my husband buys me a slice of my favorite cake as a romantic gesture from time to time. We served it as our wedding cake and it has been the birthday cake for both of our kids’ first birthdays. In case you are wondering…the vegan chocolate peanut butter cake from Blind Faith Cafe in Evanston, IL just north of Chicago.

    • Amy says...

      Love this sweet gesture. I hope to have a husband like this someday.

    • Hannah says...

      I was a server at Blind Faith during college nearly 20 years ago and have lived across the.country for nearly as long. That cake still haunts my dreams.

    • Laura says...

      That cake is amazing!

    • Cait says...

      My husband brings me Ben&Jerry’s. The best kind of surprises!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that, amy. i love that he really knows you :)

    • Amanda says...

      Uhm, I work in Evanston and go by this place every day wanting to go and never have. This just pushed me over the edge…I’m making my husband go with me for dinner tonight!!

  60. Courtney says...

    The visual of kids eating under the table and thinking it’s the best thing ever is awesome. :)

  61. Natalie says...

    Is Sarah from Atlanta? We go to a Clay’s Sports Bar here in Sandy Springs for the BEST wings. Such a sweet story!!

  62. Maclean Nash says...

    UPSIDE DOWN DINNERS! How magical.

    Sarah, your story brought tears to my eyes!
    I hope your niece is well!