Books and Meatballs at Spoonful Magazine

At the launch party for Spoonful Magazine, January 2016

At the launch party for Spoonful Magazine, January 2016

Friday Night Meatballs is in print again, and this time it’s extra special. Spoonful is a new magazine devoted to food and community, with gorgeous photography and production (seriously, the paper even smells good). We’re featured in the very first issue!

What’s more, the editors at Spoonful have asked me to combine two of the great loves of my life: food and literature. My new column on the Spoonful website, “The Armchair Cook,” will serve up monthly book reviews of the best new culinary literature. My first installment is a review of Simran Sethi’s Bread Wine Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love.

I do hope you’ll check it out, and I encourage you to pick up a copy or subscribe and help us bring beautiful food and writing into the world!

FNM in Canadian Living

The Canadian Living story on Friday Night Meatballs is illustrated with an image of a skillet full of meatballs.

Friday Night Meatballs got some love in the new issue of Canadian Living magazine.

Friday Night Meatballs has spread around the world– but some of the most enthusiastic meatballers are our neighbors to the north. The November 2015 issue of Canadian Living features Friday Night Meatballs and tells the story of Shayla Bradley, an Ontario mom who has made it a new tradition in her young family. Check out the article here!

Reading and Cooking Demo: Tuesday Night Meatballs, Anyone?

Ever wondered how Joe prepares his famous meatballs? I hope you’re free Tuesday night, then.


To celebrate the release of the Corn Belt Almanac anthology, Philly’s own The Head & The Hand Press is hosting a night of reading and cooking at the Free Library’s Center for Culinary Literacy. I’ll be reading from my essay “Friday Night Meatballs: How to Change Your Life with Pasta,” which is included in the book, and thriller author Jon McGoran will read from his essay “Long Range Meal Planning.” We’ll also be cooking up our specialties for you, so prepare to learn Joe’s meatball secrets. Your $15 ticket gets you a generous tasting along with beer pairings from our event sponsors, Yards Brewing. Copies of the Corn Belt Almanac will be available for purchase.

Tuesday, November 10, 6:30 to 8:30 PM

Free Library of Philadelphia, Culinary Literacy Center

1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA

Click here to get your tickets ($15).

Best Food Writing Update

Best Food Writing 2015, edited by Holly Hughes, will be available in October.

The introduction and table of contents for Best Food Writing 2015 are now online!

Here’s a taste:

My first bite released a flood of taste memories. I realized that this was the same dish I had always ordered—no doubt using the same logic—when we came to Pappardella. I literally closed my eyes in pleasure to savor it. The pasta was toothsome and meltingly fresh, the ragu sauce rich, meaty, and satin-smooth. It warmed my soul in places I hadn’t known needed warming.

“I could make this,” I thought to myself. “Sure, it would probably take all day. But it would be worth it.”

The book, which includes my Friday Night Meatballs essay as well as heavy hitters like Anthony Bourdain and Pete Wells, will be available in mid-October and is available for pre-order now. Not that I’m excited or anything.

Local Mouthful Podcast Interview

You can subscribe to Local Mouthful on iTunes.

I recently talked about Friday Night Meatballs with Local Mouthful, a new podcast about food hosted by two of my favorite Philadelphia food writers, Joy Manning (editor of Edible Philly) and Marissa McClellan (author of Food in Jars). You can listen here. Enjoy!

Big News: FNM in Best Food Writing 2015!

Cover of Best Food Writing 2015.

I’ve got some very good news to share today! I’m so excited to announce that my essay “Friday Night Meatballs: How to Change Your Life with Pasta,” first published in Serious Eats, has been selected for inclusion in the Best Food Writing 2015 anthology, edited by Holly Hughes and published by Da Capo Press.

I’ve enjoyed this anthology for years; it’s published many of my favorite writers, from Anthony Bourdain to Ruth Reichl. I’m humbled to be included in their company.

You can pre-order a copy here, if you’re so inclined! There’s more info about the series, now entering its 15th year, at the Best Food Writing website. I’ll post updates on Facebook and Twitter as I know more.

I owe huge thanks to the incredibly talented folks at Serious Eats, Pinnacle Performance Partners, and The Head & The Hand Press for their support– not to mention my husband and meatball chef Joe Cleffie, our daughter Lucia, and my mother, Vicki Grey.

The Corn Belt Almanac

The Corn Belt Almanac, available June 5, 2015, from The Head & The Hand Press, includes an essay on Friday Night Meatballs.

Here in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia, there’s a lot going on– including a growing literary community. Writers, editors, publishers, and graphic artists are doing innovative and exciting things here, and The Head & The Hand Press has played a huge role in bringing us all together.

Founded by writer and urban farmer Nic Esposito, The Head & The Hand holds writing workshops, classes, and community events as well as publishing unique works. It also publishes a series of anthologies based on the Philadelphia tradition of almanacs established by Ben Franklin, who created Philadelphia’s first literary startup, the famous Poor Richard’s Almanack. I’ve had the privilege of being included in the first two volumes of this series, the Rust Belt Rising Almanac (a collection of writing from and about Rust Belt cities) and the Asteroid Belt Almanac (which focuses on science and technology).

The newest volume in this series is the Corn Belt Almanac, which contains a variety of fiction, essays, poetry, and art about food and farming. I’m proud to say that my essay “Friday Night Meatballs: How to Change Your Life with Pasta” essay, originally published in Serious Eats, will be part of this collection. It’s also featured on Pubslush this week as part of a fundraiser for the book’s publication. Pubslush is a crowdfunding site that allows small publishers to raise money for the many costs involved in creating, printing, and distributing books, and right now The Head & The Hand is seeking funders to help cover printing costs for the Corn Belt Almanac. If you enjoy good food writing and want to support local literary communities, I encourage you to donate to the Pubslush campaign.

The Plural of You

Two men hug in Union Square Park.

Image copyright: The Plural of You Podcast.

I love a good conversation, and I’ve been having a lot of them about Friday Night Meatballs lately. I had the pleasure of talking a few weeks ago with Josh Morgan of The Plural of You Podcast, a monthly podcast that aims “to share and preserve stories from people whose work inspires trust, compassion, and community.”

If you’d like to give it a listen, click here! You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or follow it on Twitter.

Real Simple features Friday Night Meatballs!

FNM in RS 6


The April 2015 issue of Real Simple magazine is out, and it includes a wonderful feature about community that focuses largely on Friday Night Meatballs. The article, by writer Virginia Sole-Smith, is a great mix of reporting and research, with some really cool examples of how to build community into a busy life. She conducted a very thoughtful interview, and you’ll find me in there talking about online life vs. “real” life, the problem with being busy, and why I hate housework. The issue will be on newsstands this week!

FNM in RS 5FNM in RS 7

Of Memory and Meatballs

meatball memory

Tom Dixon, this post’s for you.

For everyone else: I’m writing about this week’s Friday Night Meatballs on our shiny new blog (eee– thank you, Pinnacle!) at the request of one of our guests, Thomas Dixon. I met Tom at Philadelphia’s Nerd Nite a couple of years ago and we’ve been Facebook friends ever since. When we met, he gave a talk about a most unusual way to use social media. In 2010, he was hit by a car and spent a week in a coma. He woke up with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that affects what’s known as “episodic memory”–the part of the memory that recalls events from a day or two ago. In order to keep things straight, Tom uses a private Twitter account as his “memory”– tweeting the details of his life to himself as he lives it, in order to create a searchable diary. He has written about the experience for Mensa Bulletin and was interviewed about it on NPR affiliate WHYY’s Newsworks.

At the end of a particularly pleasant Friday Night Meatballs, Tom asked me if I would write down some details about the evening to aid his memory.

So, Tom, here’s what I remember:

It was freezing and your bus was late. You called to let me know. I had just finished lighting the candles on the dining-room table. The downstairs was as good as it was going to get–our house will never be mistaken for Martha Stewart’s, but I had at least managed to tidy things up a bit, and my daughter Lucia, who is five, had set the table with my grandmother’s wedding china.

My friend Stephanie (a designer of healing spaces) and her young daughter Olivia arrived first. Next were Katie and John and their toddler son Toby, a happy little guy with hair so blond it’s almost white. You arrived smiling and bearing tiramisu muffins and a bottle of sparkling cider, marveling at how very close our house is to your parents’. You and Steph quickly struck up a conversation and I poured you a glass of cider.

A delicious surprise from the meatball lovers at Mirassou Winery.

A delicious surprise from the meatball lovers at Mirassou Winery.

After much bustle and chatter we fed the kids and got everyone settled: little ones playing in the living room, grownups around a dining room table lit by candles and heaped with bread, salad, pasta, Joe’s homemade meatballs, cider, and wine. (The wine this week was special: the kind folks at Mirassou Winery read about Friday Night Meatballs and sent us two bottles of their delicious Pinot noir!)

We toasted. You told us stories about your tradition of traveling to a new country every year at New Year’s and your recent trip to France (you missed the horrific Charlie Hebdo massacre by just two days). We talked about language learning in Paris and New York, John and Katie’s time in Bolivia, Toby’s glee at being allowed to play with two big kids in the next room, Joe’s hope that Cuban cigars will soon be available in the United States, my latest ideas for articles. You talked of the Fishtown you knew growing up;  while I made coffee in our tiled kitchen with the oddly high cabinets, you and I discussed the ups and downs of the neighborhood’s swift gentrification.

Dessert was a great spread of treats: cake bars made by the amazing Edna at Nook Bakery & Coffee Bar, croissants from Artisan Boulanger Patisserie, and your delicious tiramisu muffins, all accompanied by coffee (with or without rum). We lingered over dessert until the kids, all up past their bedtimes, started to show the warning signs of an imminent meltdown. Lucia wanted to tell you goodbye but was feeling too shy, so she whispered her message in my ear and I delivered it. We bade you goodbye and I headed upstairs to put her to bed as you stepped out into the cold night.

If this helps you remember Friday Night Meatballs, I hope you’ll come and create more memories with us soon.