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Games and Gourmet (or Sloppy Jo’s on a work night)

September 23, 2013

Guest post by Michelle Sinclair

Finding Harmony Blog is hosting a series of guest posts in September on how to break out of food ruts and maybe even connect with friends and family in the process. See other posts in the series: Supper Club here, Food Swap here,  and From Market to Table here.

Michelle Sinclair is my daughter who writes regular movie reviews for Third Way Cafe, and guest columns for my Another Way newspaper column. She and her husband, Brian, are expecting their first child in November. She works in the advertising (legal notices, exciting!) for The Washington Post but  in her free time is a novelist in search of an agent.

Games and Gourmet: EPV* Night

Once a month, my husband and I can be found sitting around a table with two other thirtysomething couples, laughing while playing a board game and sampling food straight out of a gourmet cookbook.

[For shorthand, we call our monthly dinner and board game night “EPV Nights” after the name we adopted when we used to compete as a team at trivia nights. EPV* stands for “E Pluribus Voltron” because we’re dorks children of the 1980s with strong civics backgrounds. Voltron was an eighties-era cartoon: E pluribus unum— “From Many, One” —is a motto of the United States, so perhaps you get the picture.]

We had been doing this off and on over the years, but it seemed like months and months would go by before we found the time to get something planned. I suggested we make a regular date of it—a particular Saturday every month—and set it up so our Gmail Calendar regularly reminds us EPV Night is coming. We rotate between homes, and if someone has a conflict, we find an alternate date or just move on for the month. Most importantly, it reminds us to have the conversation, which leads to nine or ten EPV Nights a year—far more than the three or so we used to muster.


Michelle and her husband Brian, cooking in my kitchen.

Food is always a highlight of the evening. We have all grown as cooks in the years we’ve known each other. What used to be delivery pizza has become stuffed green peppers or sausage orecchiette—“foodie” elements and delicious tastes we don’t often encounter in our own kitchens. The hosting couple serves the main meal, with the guests bringing dessert and drinks, or maybe a side dish. One couple in particular enjoys reading chef books and trying techniques that I sometimes find daunting. What fun to enjoy a “restaurant dinner” at a friend’s house!

The board games are another highlight, although sometimes we get so caught up in good conversation that we never do get around to cracking a game open.

What will happen to our EPV nights once children start to arrive on the scene? Well now that our first child is on the way, (of the group, and personally as a couple) we’ll have to see. I have fond memories of my parents’ own version of EPV, when they had their good friends over for knock-down-drag-out pinochle nights. All the kids played together, and we enjoyed rolling our eyes at the adults whenever their shouts and laughter over the kitchen table interrupted our play. I hope EPV Nights can evolve to become family affairs—so long as we continue to live in the area and don’t get sick of each other!

GamesAndGourmetGroupAs luck would have it, the night this was taken the menu was sloppy jo’s, beans and salads, since it was a work night.

Ultimately, the important part isn’t the games, or the food, or the dorky name. The essential ingredient is regular social interaction in a world and community that is increasingly fractured or moving online. That is particularly true in the Washington, D.C. area, where so many people have moved into the area for jobs and live far from the built-in social fabric of family. To substitute, many people turn to the website to join gatherings centered on a particular interest. Brian and I tried a few of those, but never managed to go back a second time. I suppose we’re just not outgoing enough to try forging new friendships from a houseful of strangers.

That’s why I’m grateful for our EPV friends, and our regular gatherings for as long as they last. We’ve made some great memories, found some new foods, and trounced some good friends. What more can anyone ask?


Michelle and Brian Sinclair, photography by Misty Yoder, at


How do you get together with friends or family around food? Comment here to be entered into a drawing for a free copy of Whatever Happened to Dinner. You can share links to similar ideas here, or at my Whatever Happened to Dinner Facebook page, to be entered in the drawing. (Posts for the drawing will close Sept. 30, 2013, midnight).

And don’t forget to plan something special for today, Family Day, Monday September 23.  For more on my book, here are study questions, an interview with yours truly, two podcasts with the food editors, and a video book trailer.  Or think about who might like a copy of the Whatever Happened to Dinner book with about 100 recipes ranging from traditional/old time to foodie!   Order here.


From → Faith, Family Life, Food

  1. Pert permalink

    Great picture of you and Brian! Liked your article too. Pert

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