When life gets uncomfortable, I crave comfort food.
I want what I can make from fresh ingredients with my own two hands. Nothing fancy, but stuff like scalloped potatoes and macaroni and cheese, that with one taste, will carry me back to simpler times when I had nothing more taxing on my plate than attending elementary school followed by a little piano practice (note the emphasis on little) and a lot of playing outside. With our scalloped potatoes this evening, we’re having two sides: Meatloaf and a little saute of fresh summer squash, compliments of a mysterious but generous home gardener that my Aunt Jo knows.
It’s funny to think that I associate meatloaf with the carefree days of childhood when my mother never made meatloaf. At least with any measure of success. And though she tried, she was never encouraged in that department because my Yankee Daddy could barely tolerate the stuff. Daddy also discriminated against Mom’s fried chicken and I know for a fact that Mother’s fried chicken was wonderful. In fact, everything Mom cooked was great, because she came from a long and wide line of great cooks who believed in the importance of scratch-cooking.
Mom’s story on her rendition of tasteless meatloaf went something like this: In the days of early marriage, her meatloaf had been good. But then she began to change up her recipe a bit in hopes of pleasing my father’s taste buds. I do vaguely remember a couple of Mom’s experiments–like the one that was covered in mushroom sauce instead of tomato-based sauce and the one that cooked with cheddar cheese in the middle, which I guess was sort of like Meatloaf Kiev. Ultimately, all the experiments fell short of pleasing Dad; so Mom gave up trying. Then, for years, every time the subject was raised, she’d pass the buck for her barely passable meatloaf onto Dad’s tasteless palate.
So, unlike many, I don’t cook my mother’s meatloaf because she never successfully conjured one up. But I didn’t venture too far from home; my recipe, which cooks in a home-made barbecue sauce, comes out of the kitchens of Mom’s two sisters. Both Aunt Jane and Aunt Jo have made this meatloaf recipe for more years than I can count, especially given that I’ve made the recipe on my own for over thirty years now. I’m not sure who found the recipe first. If you get them alone, I think they both claim it. (You know how it is with any good recipe or success story. Just as my dad knows only too well how it is with any story of failure.) And if you feel the need to experiment like Mom did, go right ahead; add some cheese in the middle, or even some chopped jalapenos or bell peppers.
Just don’t serve it to discriminating palates.
Preheat oven to 325. Cook for 1.5 hours. Baste last hour.
Mix and form into loaf shape. Place into a greased casserole dish:2 lbs lean ground beef 1.5 tsp salt .25 tsp pepper 1/2 cup minced onion 1 egg 1/4 can tomato sauce (15 oz size) 1 cup of oats (or bread crumbs, if you prefer) Cover with home-made barbeque sauce: 3/4 can tomato sauce (15 oz size) 1/2 cup of water 6 T. vinegar 6 T. brown sugar 3 tsp prepared mustard 2 T. Worcestershire sauce