Design

Four Fun Things

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

I devoured the memoir Inheritance in two days. When Dani Shapiro casually takes a genetic ancestry test, she is shocked to discover that her beloved late father was not, in fact, her biological dad. (This is not a spoiler, as it happens on page one.) The rest of the book follows her journey as she unravels her family secrets. Last weekend, I was running late for a dinner reservation while closing in on the end of the book. “We need to go soon,” my boyfriend said. “I AM READING THE LAST THREE PAGES!” I replied. So, he read them aloud while I quickly got ready. Anyway, read this book. — Caroline

We gave this windbreaker to our daughter for a Christmas gift, but I steal it when she’s at school for running because I love it so much. (It’s my money! And she doesn’t even appreciate how retro it is!) The hem hits at the perfect spot, and it’s lightweight and breathable. — Jenny

Pasta with Caramelized Onions

I’ve been making Diane Kochilas’s famous Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions ever since Amanda Hesser wrote about it in the New York Times almost two decades ago. Even though the recipe calls for a mere five ingredients, I usually only make it for dinner guests because it tastes so special and different. I mean that literally — often the lucky, unsuspecting eaters will take a bite and say something like, “I’ve never eaten anything like this before! What is this?! It’s hard to even identify what’s happening here!” Needless to say, what’s happening here — the combination of tangy yogurt, jammy onions, and bright salty Pecorino — is stunning. (P.S. I make twice as many onions as it calls for and use sheep’s milk yogurt.) — Jenny

Best Family Game

The best game ever: Legs. We played this nonstop over the holidays. Literally, all you do is pick a letter — say it’s “M” — set a timer for two minutes, then every player (or team of players) names everything that starts with M that has legs: martian, mother, mountaineer, missionary, etc. It can be objects, too — whatever has legs! Then you compare lists at the end, and cross off any item that other teams had. Whoever winds up with the most wins. It’s my all-time favorite game. For the rest of the week, you’ll be thinking of “m” things you forgot. It’s so addictive that my cousins and I are still playing it over text. — Kelsey

P.S. More fun things, including how to be a good listener.

(Pasta photo by James Ransom for Food52.)

  1. Sasha L says...

    Imagine my delight at my luck when I walked into the local library yesterday and Inheritance was sitting on the shelf!! I hadn’t even bothered to get on the holds list because I just knew the wait would be forever lol. Started this morning and just finished at 9 pm. To say it was hard to put down is a bit of an understatement. All day long I kept giving out updates to my husband, until the point he was practically shouting “well, what has she found out now? I’m dying over here!” I’m afraid I just couldn’t help reading so fast, but I was astonished and moved over and over again by the beauty and grief and depth of soul in her words. Highly worth my whole Saturday!

  2. Ali says...

    My friends from Syria make spaghetti with yoghurt, garlic, and just a little lemon juice, olive oil and salt. DELICIOUS and super easy. I’m going to try this version asap.

  3. Amanda says...

    I fondly remember family gatherings as a kid involving the adults playing games and laughing so much that even us kids would want to join in. Now that I’m a mom, I’m trying to create rituals and have regular family dinners to let my kids see their relatives in the same fun-loving way. Often times my mom suggests playing a game, but usually I’m so worn out that I don’t have the mental capacity for figuring out rules or paying attention to anything even a little complicated (my 2.5-year-old and 4-month-old aren’t the best sleepers;). “Legs” seems like the perfect way to get back into playing something silly at the dinner table – thanks so much! My husband and I started thinking of “a” words when I was telling him about it, and we keep randomly coming up with ones days later, and he’s not much of a game kind of guy! I’m curious though… can you use proper nouns?! Thinking the lists could get crazy long if people’s names are allowed? Love to hear anyone’s “house rules” for when we introduce it to my self-proclaimed word-nerd family!

    Also, we are making that pasta for family dinner tonight; can’t wait to try it! Our grocery stores didn’t have fresh pasta though, so my toddler is going to help me make some. Wish us luck! :)

    • Kelsey Miller says...

      Amanda, I love this! It is a PERFECT dinner-table game. In terms of “house rules,” no proper nouns. So, “Elizabeth” is a no-go, but “Elizabethan” is good. Have fun!

  4. Danielle says...

    I love this documentary so much! I recommend it to everyone!

  5. Another game to add to the list.. waiting at the restaurant for food to arrive and keeping the boys screen free and sane is sometimes a difficult and we usually play the ABC game, 20 questions and have now added Heads Up to the list.. Will try Leg next time we’re out.

  6. Carol says...

    The “legs” game sounds great..Can you purchase it? Have a great weekend!

    • Erin says...

      Scattergories is a broader version of the same concept that can be purchased as a board game.

    • Kelsey Miller says...

      I don’t think there’s a board-game version — but no need! All you need is a piece of paper for every player (or team of players). Then pick a letter, set a timer, and go!

  7. Cari says...

    Last night my teenage daughter was feeling down and disappointed by some plans that had fallen through, and I suggested playing a fast game of (new to us) ‘Legs’, instead of her lying face down on my bed whimpering.
    And it worked! In two minutes she couldn’t stop giggling. Thanks, COJ!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      This makes me happy, what a sweet moment :)

    • Kelsey Miller says...

      That’s so sweet!

    • Sasha L says...

      That’s so funny!

  8. Diana McNeill says...

    Caroline–I bought the book yesterday and am half way done. It’s gripping! Thanks for the recommendation!

  9. Danielle says...

    I was walking to work today thinking about dinner later and I remembered there being an onion yogurt pasta dish I’d seen somewhere and wanted to make. Opened COJ and there it was!

  10. Mary says...

    Saw Dani Shapiro at a book reading last night in Brookline, MA. If you have a chance to see her in your city – please do it! She is as articulate as you’d imagine and I can’t wait to read Inheritance!

  11. MM says...

    My nine year still chooses Sorry every time…

  12. He’s a keeper, Caroline! (And I added this book to my list IMMEDIATELY. Right up my alley.) And I’ve been wanting to make that darn pasta since Jenny posted the process on her Insta stories. Looks insanely good. (Also right up my alley. Might even make it for lunch today…)

  13. It’s a tough call, but I think “Four Fun Things” is my favorite part of COJ. Keep it coming!

  14. Mallory says...

    Cup of Jo should have a tag or page dedicated to book recommendations. I almost exclusively choose books based on your recommendations (and of course the awesome commenters) but I do not have a convenient way to locate those.

    • Andrea says...

      yes please!

    • Rachel says...

      YES! Totally agree. I typically love COJ book recommendations- but sometimes it’s difficult to find previous posts that include books (like 4 fun things) if the word “book” isn’t in the title of the post.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      this is a great idea! we will get this together!

    • Julie says...

      This would be fantastic! I return often to book posts, and posts where readers share their favorite passages. My absolute favorite content on this site.

    • gfy says...

      Ditto PODCASTS – especially great if you’d comb the comments and add those rec’s too perhaps with an asterisk or something to designate “from the comments” so no one holds you accountable. But usually comment suggestions are as golden as your official rec’s!

  15. Melissa says...

    The pasta dish sounds amazing, but a question about Jenny’s note – the recipe calls for 6 cups of onions. Does Jenny really use 12 cups!?

  16. Hilary A Tschoepe says...

    To the person responsible for posting the sweet image of the midcentury family playing a game together- thank you. Refreshing to see a nostalgic pic used in an unironic way! And as a bonus, every stick of furniture is swoon-worthy, right down to the HAY look-alike pillows.

    • Stephanie says...

      Agreed, do you think that game pictured is Parcheesi?

    • Savannah says...

      Stephanie it’s Sorry! I know this because, at 30, this is still my favorite game.

  17. Lee says...

    My dad and I always played a version of Legs when I was a kid. It is the best car game!

  18. Meredith says...

    Caroline, swoon!! After reading your many insightful posts on CoJ about reading and writing, it sounds like you’ve got yourself a rare edition ;)

  19. I’m planning to listen to Inheritance on audio! I’ve heard such great things about Dani Shapiro in general and this book in particular!

  20. Samantha says...

    Jenny – when I was growing up, every Thursday my (Polish) mother would make “No Yolks” egg noodles, butter them while they were still hot, and then serve them piping hot with cottage cheese on top. My dad would get caramelized onions on his, us kids (6 of us! Born in 9.5 years! My mother is a saint!) with fruit cocktail on top.

    I always looked forward to Thursday night dinner, but anytime a friend would come over they would think it was the strangest dinner ever. As each one of us kids got older, we gradually would switch from requesting the fruit cocktail to the asking for the caramelized onions like dad!

    The best (cheap and easy) comfort food ever! Thanks for the memory – can’t wait to share the (much more sophisticated) recipe you shared with my mom during our standard 9 am call tomorrow!

    • Sasha L says...

      I’m not trying to yuck your yum, but wouldn’t a post about the wackiest/weirdest, but also delicious, foods you ate growing up be so super fun?

      My mom served buttermilk pancakes, with brown gravy. The kind from the packet. Blech, right? But we all loved it! I remember it tasting so good.

      My brothers and dad all ate chocolate cake exclusively in a glass of milk. Yuck. But they loved it.

    • Emily says...

      I love Sasha’s idea! Hope you will consider doing Cup of Jo. Sometimes stuff that seems weird can be oh so good when you try it. This would be great to read all the comments!

  21. Kristin says...

    I volunteered in a friend’s gifted classroom for ten years, and she played a version of that game with the kids to help encourage them to be more creative and to think beyond the obvious. They would get so frustrated when they had to cross off most of their lists, but you definitely see them trying to be more creative the next time they played it.

    • Laura says...

      Oh, I bet that could be really useful in a foreign language class too for building a robust vocabulary.

  22. Matty says...

    That pasta is a blast from the past! Thanks for digging this winner out of the recipe archives in my head and into vogue again :)

  23. Kate Peaslee says...

    I just searched for “Legs” on Amazon Prime before re-reading this …

    • Theresa says...

      Haha! I was wondering where the link was for a second…!!

  24. Marianne says...

    Thanks for the book recommendation! I have the hardest time finding new books to read, so I always like posts with recs. Definitely planning to check it out!

  25. Kaitlin says...

    I feel like I may have mentioned this before, but hear me out: Inheritance reminds me a LOT of one of my favourite documentaries, by Sarah Polley, called Stories We Tell, that is about Sarah discovering the father she knew is not actually her biological father and that she was the offspring of an affair her mother had had. Much like Inheritance, it’s about how we craft a narrative about ourselves, what we know to be true, and what, at the end of the day, actually matters.

    • Danielle says...

      I love this documentary so much! I recommend it to everyone!

  26. Mia says...

    Commenting from Germany, where apparently the windbreaker is no longer available on the Nike website! I tried to reverse search the image to no avail – Google’s best guess is ‘board shorts’ (lol). What’s the product name?? Thanks!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh! it’s the Women’s Woven Jacket by Nike Sportswear. here’s another link, if this one works! https://amzn.to/2T5sqJj

  27. Kate says...

    Back in the 80s, my parents bought matching black and red Nike windbreakers that looked exactly like the one featured. They would wear them on walks around the neighborhood, and it was just as adorably nerdy as you might expect. I’m still sad that there was never a picture capturing the moment. They still like to coordinate outfits, 45 years of marriage later, but much to my dismay, they donated the windbreakers (which I discovered when I went home to steal one!)

  28. Inheritance sounds like a great book, adding it to my list!

    Olga

  29. Sarah says...

    I’ve been making that yogurt and carmelized onion pasta dish since it appeared on CoJ a few years back. ;) It’s such an easy yet complex dish to have in the dinner rotation!

  30. Meg says...

    Caroline. Marry him. Or you know, just keep him around a really long time.

    • Sarah says...

      This! So much this! A

      And send me his brother or carbon copy. What a selfless and kind act.

      (reminds self, add ‘reader’ to list of requirements for partner)

    • Naseem says...

      YES. my boyfriend reads to me and it’s the best thing ever.

    • Nicole says...

      One of my best friends had a boyfriend that read to her and he was super controlling and abusive.

      Not trying to be negative but maybe realistic? Someone isn’t a keeper just because they read to you (although that is nice). I realize people will say, “Well, obviously she’s vetted him and there’s more to it…” but on this blog there isn’t more about him. CofJ seems like a progressive enough space to where I’m hoping to leave this without much of a fuss.

  31. Katie says...

    LITERALLY the best ‘Legs’ like game is called “Listography: The Game: May the Best List Win!”. You can get it on Amazon, but I stumbled on it in a small bookstore and bought it on a whim.

    You create lists (like scattergories or Legs) but they vary in terms of the goal: Sometimes you want to match everyone, sometimes no one, sometimes only one other person. It’s addictive.

    I converted even my most board game-hating friends into playing for hours in a cabin up in the Cascades.

    Do yourself a favor. Buy it.

    • Sarah M says...

      Yes!! We love Listography and have converted a bunch of our friends too, such a great recommendation :)

  32. Mandy says...

    Fun mid week pick me up!!

  33. A says...

    One of our go-to recipes is the pasta with yogurt and carmalized onions. I like to add in chunks of roasted butternut squash for extra sweetness and texture :)

  34. I wanna play legs the next time I’m on a roadtrip!! So fun!

    Allie

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that was my thought exactly! :)

  35. LR says...

    Just here to say Caroline’s bf sounds like a keeper.

    • BreAnne Neuman says...

      I second that!

    • jade lees says...

      That was my take away too.

  36. Liz says...

    Four Fun Things is one of my favorite COJ standards & this one was no exception–always love your recommendations!

    Funny sidenote though: I couldn’t figure out why that last photo was making me irrationally irritated…and then I realized what board game is being played. “Sorry!” *shudders* So. Many. Childhood. Fights. I can see–clear as day–the smirk on my adolescent cousin’s face as she passive-aggressively sneered the dreaded words: “So-orry!” *cries* ;)

    • Sasha L says...

      Oh gosh, agreed. Sorry is a terrible game.