Meatloaf: Finally Trendy

In case you were basing your menus on the latest trends in food, here's some critical information about 2009 from the Houston Chronicle

"If you’re a homebody who enjoys making a big pan of macaroni and cheese, or eating a hearty, homemade stew instead of going to a fancy restaurant, congratulations: You are among the trendiest people in the country.

Comfort foods, simple meals, home cooking and recession-proof dining will be the buzzwords in the food world for 2009, according to trend-spotters and market experts. But fear not, foodies. The 2009 forecast isn’t all about meatloaf and mashed potatoes. The new year also will see the rise of Asian noodles, Peruvian dishes and drinks, ginger, cactus, certified fish, affordable wines, garam masala flavors, smoked flavors, maple syrup, organ meats and the growing use of eggs at lunch and dinner, not just as a morning staple."

Although I'm down with the concept of nose to tail eating, I'm still not ready to put organ meats on the table. But it's about time it got trendy to be a homebody and make stuff like meatloaf  for dinner with the family. Eating this way is less expensive by an order of magnitude, referenced as early as the "frugality" cookbooks of the 1800s.  Plus, it's healthier, tastes better and means I can have a glass of wine and play music while I'm doing it.  I guess the frugal cookbook authors of the 1800s might not be hip to the wine idea, but with the Temperance movement blessedly behind us, bring on a little tipple!  

Perspective is everything when you're in the kitchen - I don't feel deprived one bit by eating  a homemade rustic meatloaf  rather than a Porterhouse steak.  For one thing, "American paté" makes a far superior sandwich the next day.  Frugal cooks everywhere know that yummy leftovers are key to both household economy and serenity during a busy week.  Like roast chicken, meatloaf is a king among leftovers in my book - even tastier with what you make from it the day after.  My mom's favorite sandwich is the meatloaf sandwich and that is probably why I learned how to make delicious meatloaf from her.  She was always a trendsetter.  Still is. 

Sunday Best Meatloaf 

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 C. crushed saltines (half stale ones aging in the cupboard work fine)
1 t. salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 green pepper, chopped fine
1 small onion, chopped fine 
1/4 C. salsa
1 egg

Mix gently together, pat it into a loaf shape in a 9x11" pyrex dish. Bake at 350º for 1 hour.  If very frugal, bake potatoes, squash, or sweet potatoes at the same time.   Do I even  need to mention that a classic meatloaf dinner includes mashed potatoes, salad (or peas I guess) and pie for dessert? 

Variation: when I didn't have an onion for this meatloaf, I chopped fine about 1 C. of cabbage and some roasted red peppers that were languishing in the fridge. Delicious.  The other reason to love meatloaf: 1001 tasty variations. 

Mother's Kitchen is looking for meatloaf recipes. Buttercup posted her recipe with roasted red peppers. Kate posted one she made from a Cook's Illustrated recipe. And Patti posted a version to the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers site.  

"The raw, ground meat commonly used to make today's American meat loaf has a humbler heritage. In the 19th century, we know the Industrial Revolution made it possible for ground meat be manufactured and sold to the public at a very low cost. At first, many Americans were slow to purchase raw ground meat products and generally regarded them with suspicion. Lack of reliable home refrigeration may have played into this decision. Cooks continued to mince their meat (often already cooked, as was the practice for centuries) by hand. Companies selling meat grinders to home consumers at the turn of the century endeavored to change this practice by provided recipe books to promote their products. Some of these recipes were simple, others quite creative. A late 19th century recipe for "Meat Porcupine" instructs the cook to press her ground meat into an animal-type shape mold and decorate it with pieces of bacon to achieve the desired effect. Eventually, the American public began incorporating ground meat into family meals.

Since that time, meat loaf variations have been introduced and promoted by women's magazines, cookbooks, fairs, food manufacturers, diners and family-style restaurants. Meat loaf & gravy [often paired with mashed potatoes and canned green beans ] was very popular in the 1950s. This meal is still considered by some to be the penultimate comfort food. Did you know that "frosted meatloaf" is ground beef covered with mashed potatoes? Perhaps this recipe is a distant relative of shepherd's pie.

Meat loaves
"Was meat loaf too homely a recipe to make American cookbooks published in the nineteenth century or earlier?...I find no meat loaves in American cookbooks before the 1880s; these were primarily veal loaves (a more economical meat early on than beef) and altogether different from the meal loaves so familiar today...Sarah Tyson Rorer offers a slightly more elaborate veal loaf in Mrs. Rorer's Philadelphia Cook Book [1886] along with something called "Cannelon," which is clearly the precursor of meat loaf as we know it today...Cannelons appear in cookbooks right into the 1920s, although by this time meat loaves were outnumbering them. Were meat loaves slow to come because of the lack of meat grinders? Or was it because of unreliable refrigeration (ground raw meat is extremely perishable)? Possibly a bit of both, but I can't say for sure... Though simple loaves of chopped meat may have been made during America's infancy and adolescence, only in the twentieth century did meat loaves truly arrive. And, yes, many of them did come out of big food company test kitchens. Like it or not."
American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century, Jean Anderson [Clarkson Potter:New York] 1997 (p. 94-100)
[NOTE: this book contains classic meat loaf recipes, including the 1886 recipe for Cannelon]

A sampling of meat loaf recipes printed in American cookbooks:

Veal Loaf & meat souffle, Boston Cooking School Cook Book, Mrs. D. A. Lincoln

Fleish Kugel (meat ball) & Spiced Veal Loaf, Aunt Babette's Cook Book

Cannelon & other recipes from the
Enterprise Meat Chopper Company, marketed at the Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo NY.

Cannelon of Beef, Fannie Merrit Farmer

Baked Hamburg Steak, Beef Loaf (made from chopped round steak, not ground meat)
The New Butterick Cook Book, Flora Rose (p. 265)

Beef loaf, Italian Hamburg Loaf & Meat Loaf with Chili Sauce
America's Cook Book, The Home Institute (p. 226)

Emergency steak
Your Share: How to prepare appetizing, healthful meals with foods available today, Betty Crocker, General Mills
[NOTE: this link provides both accurate recipe and instruction, though no attribution to the original source.]

Susan's meat loaf, Meat loaf ring, One-apiece loaves, Last-minute meat cups, Old-fashioned meat loaf, Veal loaf, Cheeseburger loaf, Frosted meat loaf (mashed potatoes make the frosting!), Italian-style meat loaf, Mushroom meat loaf, Bacon-dill meat loaf, Rainbow loaf, Spicy peach loaf, Mushroom-stuffed meat loaf, Little sherry-barbecued loaves, Two-in-one rice ring, Superb skilled burger loaf and Minute meat loaves.
Good Housekeeping Cook Book, Dorothy B. Marsh, (p. 68-69).

Perhaps this proliferation is the reason so many people associate meatloaf with the 1950s!"

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