It appears that meat loaf is a favorite American food. The evidence is in cookbooks and some restaurants. Bluephie’s restaurant in Madison serves Meatloaf of the Gods, and it appears in the cookbook from Monte’s Blue Plate Diner of Madison, which has the same owner as Bluephie’s. My culinarily inclined granddaughter, Dana, ate it at Bluephies and lived to go on to cooking school.
Better Homes and Gardens has dressed it up. The 15th edition of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 2010, has a recipe with thirteen ingredients. If that’s not enough, the book has an illustrated page with ten glazes for meat loaf. That tells me that Americans like meat loaf in excelsis, not just plain. The above mentioned Meat Loaf of the Gods has eighteen ingredients.
Twentieth century cooking celebrity James Beard presents six different recipes for meat loaf in James Beard’s American Cookery, published in 1972. He also tells us that meat loaf is a product of the twentieth century that coincides with the popularity of ground beef. He then gives pointers about good meat loaf. It should be highly seasoned and firm but not dry. He likes it cold in sandwiches. It may be served hot with good tomato sauce, mushroom sauce or onion sauce. When cold, horseradish sauce or Cumberland (what’s that?) sauce is appropriate. James Beard’s book contains the only page-long essay that I know of that is about meat loaf.
I am fond of meat loaf. I horrified my mother when I was about ten years old when I asked it for my birthday dinner. She thought it was too dull. Since Mother was a champion cook, she made it for me and it was very good even without sauce on it. This week I found myself trying to figure out how to make meat loaf for one or two people, when all the cookbooks expect a small army to be at the table. I didn’t want to be eating meat loaf and its leftovers every day for a week, so I sat down and invented a plain meat loaf that would feed one or two people, unless one of them eats like a horse as my late husband did.
Meat loaf is somewhat like stew. One can put a great variety of ingredients into it and it will be good. That is shown in the cook books mentioned above. Here is my version.
Meat Loaf for Two
½ - ¾ pound lean ground beef 1/3 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup rolled oats ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
½ cup tomato juice pepper to taste
1 egg ½ teaspoon ground thyme
1/3 cup chopped onion 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Mix it all together and put in a greased baking dish. Bake about 1 hour at 350 degrees.
The cook book authors have suggested many more ingredients, including spices, mushrooms, vegetables like green pepper and carrot, catsup, cream, other meats to combine with beef such as sausage, and more. It is a wonderful experience if one is not vegetarian.