If you ask me what my favorite TV show is, I tend to draw a blank. And then I’m like, “oh DUH – Gilmore Girls.” (If you’re new to Earth and aren’t aware of this show, it’s about a young single mother who got pregnant at 16 and her daughter, who is about 16 when the show starts. There’s a whole bunch of family dynamics but it’s also a sweet portrait of a small town and the characters who live there.) Why do I forget that it’s my favorite show? This might sound strange, but to me it’s not so much “just a TV show,” but a part of who I am. I’ve watched it more than any other television show or movie; I’ve seen the original series at least eleven complete times. It’s moved beyond being “just a TV show” and become mingled with my life and my own memories.
If you know me and my television/movie habits, you know I’m not a big fan of stressful shows. Walking Dead, Breaking Bad … no thank you. I know they’re technically wonderful shows, but I leave that experience with a grimace on my face and a knot in my stomach – aka it’s not my idea of a good time. Gilmore Girls, by comparison, has been described as a “warm blanket” TV show, and that’s exactly how I feel about it.
My best friend Abbey and I got hooked on it early on, sometime in the first season. Somehow we became loyal to it as a unit and watched it together every week. I could certainly relate to Rory, the young bookworm at the center of the show. Unlike other teen television characters of the time who seemed to be doing nothing but putting on makeup and dating and prepping to have sex, I could relate to Rory Gilmore – she was essentially a nerd who cared about her schoolwork, carried a book with her everywhere, actually enjoyed talking to her mom and seemed way more like the young women I hung out with on a regular basis.
Abbey and I were always too busy with field hockey, basketball or softball practices to watch the show when it was on, but her dad taped it for us every week – ON A VHS! – and we would get together every Friday after our long, hectic weeks as teenagers to watch it. We would sprawl out on her couch, eat Toaster Strudels like they were going out of style, and relax into the weekend with the soothing chattiness of the Gilmore Girls and their charming town of Stars Hollow. We kept up that tradition from 7th grade through senior year of high school, when the show ended to mirror the end of our young lives as we knew it. In the show, Rory was graduating from college into “the real world” as we graduated from high school. In a weird way, it felt right.
Abbey started collecting the DVD sets as soon as they became available and I borrowed them frequently. In 9th grade I binge-watched all of season 3 (the best, am I right?) as I healed after getting my wisdom teeth removed. Then in college I started borrowing them again so I could watch/listen as I worked on my art school homework. At that point I realized I needed my own set and invested in the complete box set (one of the best purchases I’ve ever made). Later as I became an RA in college, the Gilmore Girls kept me company when I headed back to school before everyone else, all alone on my floor and homesick. The people of that show felt like my friends and I would fantasize about living in my own Stars Hollow one day. For my “Theory, Criticism and Aesthetics” class I wrote my thesis paper on Gilmore Girls and its relationship to feminism.
Warm blanket show? Absolutely. It has followed me through those difficult teenage years and then the possibly more-difficult college years. Then the even-more-difficult post-college years as I re-watched at home in my childhood bedroom I moved back into (like a true Millennial). It was fun to revisit the show again later with Robert a couple years ago (his first time), because it was my first time viewing the show being closer in age to Lorelai (the mom) than Rory (the daughter). Gilmore Girls is extremely re-watchable (as I can obviously attest to), and you can always find something new to relate to within its stories. It’s also just been there for me in a lot of different ways.
You can imagine my excitement when Robert and I discovered the Gilmore Guys podcast in late 2014. It was not too long after he and I finished watching the series together. On the podcast, Kevin, who’s a long-time lover of the show like myself, and Demi, who’s watching it for the first time, discuss each episode of Gilmore Girls AT LENGTH, often with hilarious guests. You have to love their humor and/or Gilmore Girls to enjoy it since the later podcast episodes were often 2-3 hours long or more. (As an avid podcast listener, this was no problem for me.) I would describe Kevin and Demi as the “anti-bros” – They’re two polite, creative, smart and respectful guys from Texas who’ve migrated to Los Angeles. The elevator pitch for their podcast is that it’s two young dudes talking about a show made for women. But spend just a little time with the podcast and these guys help to illustrate how Gilmore Girls is not just for women at all, but for everyone. (In other words, just because the word “girls” is in the title and the main characters are women doesn’t mean that only women can enjoy it.)
Kevin and Demi have helped to bring together the community of “Gillies” who not only love the show itself, but also the podcast and these two gentlemen who’ve put so much of their hearts and souls into producing a fantastic show for over 2 years. I recently listened to their last podcast dedicated to an episode of Gilmore Girls (they’ll also be covering “Bunheads” by the same creator soon), and I bawled for the last twenty minutes of the episode. In my opinion, to know Kevin and Demi is to love them, and to have their podcast coming to a close when I’ve been a fan since the beginning, it feels like you’re leaving the greatest summer camp and all of your best friends behind.
Knowing all that, you better believe I was over the moon when I heard Netflix was doing a revival of Gilmore Girls with the original creator of the show, meaning she could end it the way she originally intended to. (She left the show before its final season in the original run, so fans have been waiting for its true ending and her infamous “final four words.”) To be honest, it took me a while to realize I was in denial over how important this revival was to me. It was hard for me to wrap my head around what it meant for one of the most influential shows of my young adulthood to come back almost ten years after it abruptly ended. It was a special gift that I had never fully believed would come to life, so it was hard to accept.
Robert and I watched the revival all in one day with my original watching buddy, BFF Abbey. I almost cried when it started because I was so emotional about it. Am I crazy? (Well, yeah …) It’s so hard to describe the importance of this show. It’s no surprise to me that it came back with such a vengeance when Netflix started airing the original series. The show has power.
So as I’m sure you can tell by now, I had a Gilmore Girls-themed dinner party. Like many of my blog posts, I’ve had this idea for over a year now. If you’re a true fan of the Gilmore Guys podcast like me, then you know that in their earlier episodes they played a lot of sound bites from the TV show. I noticed many of them centered around food, and I got the crazy idea to have a Gilmore Girls/Guys dinner party where the menu was inspired by these wacky food quotes. I kept pushing it off because it was a pretty big undertaking. But then the time seemed right with the revival happening, so I had it the weekend after the new episodes aired with a group of friends that were mostly big fans like myself.
I’m glad the timing turned out that way because it seemed like a fitting celebration for the show and the podcast and all they’ve done for us as fans. My friends took it a step further and suggested we dress up as characters, which you can see below.
As for the menu, here’s how it played out: (Click the media player below each header to hear the quote(s) being discussed. Kevin from Gilmore Guys was sweet enough to email me these audio files to enhance my blog post. Thanks Kevin!)
“NICE CHICKEN” + “TRY A PLUM THEY’RE BETTER THAN SEX”
I developed a recipe combining these two quotes, which became “Nice Chicken” with “Better than Sex” Plum Sauce. You can find the recipe at the bottom of this post. It’s a slow cooker recipe, which is one of my favorite ways to cook meat, especially for a dinner party or other large group situation. Pictured is a double batch I made for the party. The sauce makes this chicken both sweet and savory; it works wonderfully as leftovers mixed into stir fries and even this pumpkin risotto. (Seriously! I tested both recipes in one day and then we ate the leftovers together all week.) I served it with brown rice for the party.
DINNER PARTY PRO TIP: Brown the chicken and stir together the ingredients for the sauce the night before. Store the chicken and sauce separately in the refrigerator. In the morning, wake up and dump everything in the slow cooker. At some point when it’s done before your guests arrive, shred the chicken and put it back in the slow cooker on warm until you’re ready to serve.
“MUCHO MAC AND CHEESE!”
This was an easy spot to fill since I had just developed my Mac and Cheese Tot Dish, inspired by Molly Yeh’s book. Is there anything more Gilmore Girls-esque than throwing tater tots ON TOP OF mac and cheese? I think not.
DINNER PARTY PRO TIP: Prepare and assemble everything in the baking dish (minus the tots) the night before or earlier in the day. Store in the fridge. Set it out about 30 minutes before you want to bake it so it can get closer to room temperature as your oven heats up. Cover with the frozen tots, bake and broil right before serving.
“WE HAVE COOKIES WOULD YOU LIKE COOKIES?”
This was another no-brainer. I made my Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe because DUH. It’s everyone’s favorite.
DINNER PARTY PRO TIP: You can make the dough up to a week in advance. (This actually makes them REALLY good.) Portion out your scooped cookies and place them in an airtight container to store in the fridge, keeping your layers of dough balls separated by wax or parchment paper. On the morning of your party, let the dough come closer to room temperature and then top the cookies with your vanilla salt and bake them off. Fresh cookies for the party!
My other dessert was ice cream, so I offered ice cream cones for people if they wanted to eat it that way. I had Turkey Hill’s Salted Caramel ice cream because it’s the best, as well as …
“NOW TAKE A PEACH”
… Peach ice cream! More specifically, this Peach and Brown Butter Pecan Ice Cream from Foodiecrush. I used almonds instead of pecans because we had a pecan allergy in the group, and I added a splash of bourbon to the base.
DINNER PARTY PRO TIP: Make the ice cream base a few nights before the party and refrigerate overnight. The next night, churn the base and put it in the freezer. Then you just have to pull it out for dessert at the party. (This recipe benefits from sitting out a few minutes before serving to make it more scoop-able.)
OTHER STUFF TO ROUND IT OUT
After making my menu, I realized it was all brown and orange. Oh boy – not exactly a rounded out menu. I added a bright, basic salad with a lemon-y dressing to give it some green and to offset the heavier flavors. (Think of it like Emily Gilmore getting her say in the menu. She would have served a salad.)
Besides that, I served Pop Tart appetizers. If you watch Gilmore Girls you know they talk about and eat Pop Tarts all the time. It became a question as to whether or not Pop Tarts sponsored the show, but they didn’t. (I’d love to know if Pop Tarts sales surged during Thanksgiving weekend for revival viewing parties.) In case you’re wondering, I served: brown sugar cinnamon (the only one worth eating, IMO), strawberry (classic), and s’mores (just plain delicious).
The dinner party was so much fun! My apartment is too small to fit a table where we could seat 15 people comfortably, so we served dinner buffet-style with people sitting on the couch, the floor, random chairs and stools, etc. Dinner parties don’t have to be formal. (If they did I’d probably never have them.) My friends and I usually do more of a potluck situation, but it is fun when I can occasionally make them a curated meal, especially when they’re game enough to be featured on my blog for silly things like this.
Thank you to my friends for being good sports, eating my food and dressing up like Gilmore Girls characters. Thank you to the Gilmore Guys for being lovely creative people who fostered this super goofy community of “Gillies” and for providing the audio clips for this post. Thank you to Gilmore Girls for being a show that helped me through my youth and continues to serve as a warm blanket to many, and constantly inspires us to become way more well-versed in pop culture references.
And if you read this whole thing, thank YOU! I bet you’re a Gillie.
Illustration at top created with pencil and Photoshop.
Prints of my illustrations (as well as other products with my work on them) are available in my Society6 shop.
- 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- ½ tsp grated nutmeg
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- Juice and zest from one medium orange (about ⅓ cup of juice)
- one 9.3 oz jar (A little less than 1 cup) plum sauce
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- ¼ cup diced scallions
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- for serving: sesame seeds + fresh scallions
- optional: rice or quinoa, etc.
- Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Brown the thighs in batches, about 5 minutes per side, until golden brown. Set aside.
- While the thighs are browning, stir together the brown sugar, nutmeg, ground ginger, dry mustard, orange juice and zest, plum sauce, soy sauce, scallions and garlic.
- Pour half of the sauce into a slow cooker. Place the browned chicken thighs on top, and cover with the other half of the sauce.
- Cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 6 hours. Check for doneness and cook longer as necessary until the chicken is no longer pink.
- Shred the chicken and return it to the slow cooker.
- If you would like, you can remove part of the sauce and reduce it down on the stove to create a thicker sauce for topping the chicken.
- Top with sesame seeds and fresh scallions to serve.
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