Making dinner, making memories

The text came on a Monday afternoon.

“Porcupine meatball recipe. Can you e-mail me one if you have a good one?”

I re-read the message from my older sister several times, wondering what she meant by porcupine meatballs. Then a picture of the meatballs made with rice and served in a sweet tomato sauce popped in my head.

I loved porcupine meatballs when I was a kid! How could I forget them?

I found plenty of versions of the recipe online, eventually e-mailing my sister the one that seemed most like what we remembered. She texted me several times that night as she prepared them for her family.

“Minute Rice or regular rice?”

“Regular. Mom never had Minute Rice at home.”

“I have a can of crushed tomatoes. Can I use those instead of paste?”

“Sure. Just blend them first.”

She called a few hours later with one word: Yum!

“They were just like I remembered,” she said.

I made a batch two nights later and had to agree. With the first bite, it felt like I was back at my parents’ house, fighting to get a word in with all six of my siblings sitting at the dining room table.

Food has that power to trigger your memory with a scent or a taste. Even the visual can prompt an experience long since forgotten.

Not every meal I’ve had, or every meal I’ve made, is memorable. I have a few stories of disasters that are more entertaining than my successes, but I hope there’s one recipe or two that will stick with my kids, something that will prompt one to call the other and lead to an evening of shared memories at the dinner table – even if it’s only over the phone.

PORCUPINE MEATBALLSporcupine meatballs

  • 1/2 cup uncooked long grain rice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

In a bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. Add beef and mix well. shape into 1-1/2-in. balls. In a large skillet, brown meatballs in oil; drain.

Combine tomato sauce, water, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce; pour over meatballs. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 hour.

Recipe courtesy of


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