Holiday gatherings usually allow participants a minute or two to indulge in nostalgia for days gone by. For me and mine, this year was no exception. Over and over again, the topic of meatloaf came up. I’ve recently had a lot of dinners out, and it seems that meatloaf has returned to menus, allowing for this trip down Memory Lane. Okay, you food snobs, the conversation did not take place at Le Bernadin, but at some local joint where you gather for a quick bite in darkened quarters.
Anyway, my mother made the best meatloaf. Here is the recipe, which I know by heart because that is where it is stored.
Ground Beef (don’t know how much, but enough to fill a meatloaf pan or bread pan, whichever you use)
One onion, diced
One jar of Heinz Chili Sauce
One cup of Wheaties
Cheddar cheese (the kind that comes in a box, like Velveeta)
Salt and pepper
Mix everything together (making sure to wash your hands first), and then work it into a loaf shape. Then cut it in half horizontally, put the cheddar cheese in the middle, and smoosh it back together. Then put some of the cheddar cheese over the top.
Cook at 350° for a long time. (Not sure about the temperature, but whatever.)
This is my mother’s finest accomplishment. My sister, who is a real writer, included a slightly different version of this recipe in her cookbook. I have pitted my mom’s recipe against my friends’ mothers’ recipes at these table discussions, with great success.
“Wheaties? Really? Not Cornflakes?”
“Nope, Wheaties. Try it, you will never go back.”
“Does it have to be Heinz Chili Sauce?”
“Well yeah, it does. Are you daft?”
Everyone has their own recipes. My Aunt Nancy has been collecting them and plans to put them in a cookbook containing just meatloaf recipes. I think it would do really well in this world of single-ingredient recipe books. A person who wrote a cookbook—a hundred-page cookbook on just scallops, mind you—was speaking at a breakfast I recently attended, at which I learned that “single-ingredient recipe books” is a new genre in the cooking industry.
My beloved Cousin Pam (we are really sisters, but our parents think we are cousins) has a fabulous recipe for Turkey Meatloaf, and since it has things like green peppers in it, I can pretend it’s really good for me. She gave me the recipe a long time ago, but I lost it somewhere between the Hamptons and LA. I have asked her numerous times to send it to me again, and she has promised to do so, but never followed through. I’m hoping my mentioning it here will shame her into sending it now.
Anyway, meatloaf recipes abound. While I think a meatloaf-only cookbook is a great idea, I also think it might be nice to expand it to meatloaf and mashed potato recipes, because everyone knows meatloaf without mashed potatoes is like one shoe on and one shoe off. But I’m just grateful that meatloaf is back in, and I will not ask for more than that. I hate to be gluttonous.
I’m glad that meatloaf is back in style. I really am.