A staple dish for weeknight meals.
By Elizabeth Czajkowski | Columnist
After making it through our first week of B-quad, with all the added classes and altered schedules, there is no better way to de-stress than with some classic American comfort food. And nothing says “comfort food” better than the iconic meatloaf. The mere name conjures up cozy scenes of family dinners, evoking the warm aromas of hot rolls, buttery mashed potatoes and tender meat covered in barbeque sauce.
Surprisingly, this beloved, traditional dish has been around for centuries, first appearing in “De Re Coquinaria,” a cookbook from the first century AD. In this cookbook, the Roman gastronome Apicus shares a recipe for a mixture of chopped meat, wine-soaked bread and pine nuts pressed into a patty — basically, ancient Roman style meatloaf. Throughout the years, the versatile meatloaf has appeared in many different cultures around the world. It evolved into dishes such as the Medieval European pie-shaped disks of meat with seasonings, fruits and nuts and the 18th century invention of “scrapple” by early German immigrants to America. Scrapple is a unique pan-fried mush of pork scraps, cornmeal, flour and spices.
The first recorded recipe that most resembles the modern American meatloaf emerged in the 1870s. This recipe called for chopped meat, pepper, salt, onion, milk-soaked bread and eggs. But, strangely enough, this dish was not originally a dinner item, but rather served for breakfast!
The 19th and 20th centuries in America were prime days for the meatloaf. This was due in large part to Karl Drais’s invention of the mechanical meat grinder, which made chopping meat much more convenient for cooks. Moreover, the hardships of the Great Depression made the easy, economic meal quite attractive. Meatloaf served as a valuable tool for stretching scant meat supply with fillers like oats, bread and eggs. It also provided a way to incorporate some of the less desirable parts of beef like chuck and rump into a yummy tender ground loaf. It was during the Great Depression that the term “comfort food” was bestowed upon the meatloaf.
For similar reasons, meatloaf held a prominent place at the dinner table during World War II. In the 1940s, Penny Prudence’s “Vitality Loaf” was popularized as a cheap way to provide protein and nourishment. This recipe mixed up liver, pork and beef with fillers like cereal and vegetable soup. Even after the war, meatloaf remained a favored, go-to dinnertime meal. In fact, during the 50s, people became increasingly inventive with their presentations of meatloaf. Some recipes incorporated mashed bananas, while others mixed in peach halves filled with ketchup.
Today, meatloaf remains a staple American dish and a platform to flaunt creativity. Modern food blogs showcase recipes for bacon double cheeseburger meatloaf, Korean BBQ meatloaf, Hawaiian ham loaf and even meatloaf cupcakes with mashed potato frosting. Meatloaf offers endless options and, even if you are not that comfortable in the kitchen, it’s relatively hard to ruin this dish!
I have provided my mom’s meatloaf recipe below so that you can enjoy this flavorful dish for yourself over the weekend! And don’t worry, it’s much more conservative than some of the strange concoctions listed above. This simple and satisfying recipe goes great with mashed potatoes, hot rolls, and green beans or salad. The key to my mom’s recipe is her use of delicious barbeque sauce. Additionally, her meatloaf is extra tender because instead of just ground beef, she uses a mixture of ground beef, pork and veal (a combo package available in the butcher section of most grocery stores).
Best of all, any leftovers you have can be used to make meatloaf sandwiches. Yum! Just slightly re-heat a slice of meatloaf and make your sandwich on white bread with some Hellmann’s mayo and a few crisp leaves of romaine lettuce.
Mom’s Meatloaf Recipe:
2 lbs. meatloaf mix (ground beef, pork, veal)
½ a bag (6 oz.) of 12 oz. Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Classic Stuffing Mix (the remaining ½ bag can be saved for future use)
1 cup water
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup plus ⅓ cup Sweet Baby Ray’s Original Barbeque Sauce
Heat oven to 375 F.
In a large bowl, gently mix together the meat, stuffing mix, water, eggs and ¼ cup of barbeque sauce.
Shape into a loaf in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish, lightly sprayed with cooking spray.
Spread the remaining 1/3 cup of barbeque sauce evenly over the top of the meatloaf.
Bake for 60-70 minutes, until done.
Serve and Enjoy!