Food and Family: When a Meatball Has a Deeper Meaning

What do you want to eat on your birthday?

Published Feb. 7, 2023.

Today is my son’s birthday. It’s a milestone occasion, as he is now old enough to vote and this is likely his last year living full-time under our roof. All of our hearts—my wifes, my sons, and mine—will be a little fuller on the lads birthday this year.

I’m actually writing this a few days before his big day (sorry about that, deadline-driven copy editors), and my wife and I still aren’t sure what we’ll be getting him for gifts. But I know what I’ll be cooking for dinner: Meatballs and Marinara, one of my sons favorite dishes. (One-Pan Turkey Meatballs with Coconut Rice were also in play for him, as was Flank Steak in Adobo . . . sometimes you have to make hard decisions in life.)

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Food means a lot in our family. Cooking favorite dishes for, and eating them with, a person is an expression of love. Cooks nourish the people they are cooking for with more than just calories (and meatballs). I’m not the first to express this sentiment, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.

For my wife’s birthday later this month, I’ll likely make her Pork Schnitzel, with some Buttered Spaetzle on the side; she spent time living in Germany, and these dishes have become comfort food for her. Sometimes we choose to celebrate with fireworks, other times with a warm, cozy blanket. (Thankfully, champagne fits neatly in either scenario.) But without fail, if there is a celebration, there is food.


One-Pan Turkey Meatballs with Coconut Rice

Turkey meatballs make a great canvas for flavor.
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My daughter, a younger teenager, prefers to eat vegan. This brings a layer of complexity to mealtime because her brother most certainly does not want to eat vegan all the time. Her special-occasion supper request is often some riff on our Cashew e Pepe e Funghi pasta, typically bolstered with broccoli or other vegetables. (Big brother loves this dish, too, so it’s a win-win.)

What are your favorite dishes to cook for your loved ones? 

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