I still think of food as a reward. As a happy place. And I probably always will. Even though I’ve lost seven trillion pounds, and even though I’ve reconciled years of overeating by learning that it was never really about the food, I still find food to be the most reassuring, comforting, and loving thing at the end of a day.
I don’t know about you, but growing up, food was the best past time. Bored? Cereal takes time and the milk changes color. Sad? Swiss Cake Rolls really beat away the blues (especially when eaten with friends). At the movies? Tub of popcorn, two candy bars, and a Sprite. Scared? Powdered donuts release those knots building in your stomach. You get the idea. Food was, and is, fun, reassuring, and at the very least, something to do.
Meatloaf is quintessential comfort food. It reminds me of being ten, having moved to a new town, a school, and a class of kids who didn’t necessarily want to befriend the new girl. When the classmate on my left, Emily, told me sternly, “I can only share my blue marker with you. The rest are too special to borrow,” I knew I was in trouble. What kind of school is this? What kind of community raises kids with complexes about the spectrum of marker colors? Why does everyone smell faintly of peanut butter, grape jelly, and mulch?
I was out of place. Everyone had moved on to wearing jeans, and I was still in stretch pants. Stirrups no less. I matched too well. I wore gold earrings when others had those fancy schmancy stick-on blue pearlized stars and moons. Kids were growing up and in, farther away from chubby. And I was, to put it nicely, growing outward. I was sure that a monogrammed backpack could have remedied any, if not all, of this. At the very least, a snap bracelet would have won me a friend or two. I mean, duh.
Slowly, and by slowly I mean a week into the fourth grade, I found my way into a group. Theresa, Katie, and Nicole. I made sure I was outgoing, funny, cool even. I just wanted to feel less like an outsider. When you’re new, you work doubly as hard to be likeable, to find comfort, and to bond with the new place and the new people. It’s a survival skill.
And what I remember most vividly from that time, other than the pogs and Punky Brewster, is dinner on the first night in my new town where I felt a sense of calm. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes and telling my family that I had made friends with a few girls in my class. I remember bites of meatloaf, sweet corn, and gulping milk as I told them all about how embarrassing it is to not have the 64 box of Crayola, and only the 32. I still don’t know why they didn’t get it. Yet again, duh.
My mother makes the best meatloaf in the western hemisphere. You can feel free to write off every other version you’ve tried before, and rest assured knowing that if you want tastes of comfort and love, if you want to be swaddled in delicious, then Medfield, Massachusetts is where you’ll need to go. My mother will welcome you with open arms, two sticks of butter, three dozen cookies, and no less than 42 questions of, “What can I get you to eat?” You will be happy. And full.
This is my take on meatloaf. A moist, smoky, and sweet rendition of one of my top ten favorite dishes. Daniel tells me he loves it as much as he loves me. That is to say, a lot. At least as much as his XBox.
And the best part? This tender meatloaf only requires a handful of ingredients, is a cinch to throw together, and will be one more meal in your recipe arsenal that warrants mashed potatoes and barbecue sauce.
Ingredients Instructions Notes Nutrition Information: Calories 301, Fat 11g, Carb 23g, Fiber 0g, Sugars 12g, Protein 24g
Nutrition Information: Calories 301, Fat 11g, Carb 23g, Fiber 0g, Sugars 12g, Protein 24g