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Meatloaf.

Over the years, Meatloaf was always a dish that Mum would make on cooler nights. Sometimes it would be early in the spring, late in the summer when we would have an uncharacteristic crisp night brought on by heavy rains. Perhaps it would be late in the winter and it would be waiting on a plate when Sydney and I came in from sledding with the neighbourhood boys. She always prepared it the same way, Mum did. She would make the meatloaf, green beans (depending on the time of year, fresh or canned), and potatoes. Some nights it would be mashed potatoes, other nights potatoes au gratin, or if she had the time, twice baked potatoes. No matter what kind of potatoes she made, they were delicious with the meal. Her mashed potatoes were never gluey (like mine will occasionally turn out), the twice baked potatoes would be perfectly cheesy, not overbearingly so, yet not lacking. You get the idea. The meatloaf was always cooked the same way, yet until a handful of years ago, I never knew how she did it aside from the fact she would use her big white mixer. It was always the same, her meatloaf. It was never crumbly, perfectly moist, and had a plethora of flavours that left even the pickiest of eaters going back for more. She would add a half a bottle of barbecue sauce to the rest of the ingredients she was mixing, form it into a loaf, add it to the casserole dish and the spread more meatloaf on top before baking it. With 10 minutes left, Mum would remove the pan from the oven, only briefly, and add more barbecue sauce on top, careful to spread it evenly before putting it back in the oven to finish baking. When finished, she would allow it to sit, and the house would smell absolutely delicious. Finally, she would cut into it with a knife into slices. Each slice was uniform and sat perfectly on the plate among everything else. Before eating it, Dad would always take the barbecue sauce and add more to his plate. Growing up watching him do that, it’s no wonder that I started doing that too. Each bite, with or without the extra barbecue sauce was tangy and delicious. Depending on the barbecue sauce Mum had on hand, there would be that slow burning kick that was present, but did not inflame one’s mouth, or it would just be tangy, the onion from the soup mix having baked and lending to the meatloaf it’s flavour, the breadcrumbs were just a binder, but you could taste the subtle hints of Italian herbs that they brought with them. In short: it was a symphony of flavours that graced my tongue and that’s how I grew up thinking everyone’s meatloaf was.

Boy was I wrong.

A few years ago in the summer before my Junior year, I packed up and lived out in Indiana for a month and a half. Yes, you heard me correctly, Indiana. I have an aunt who lives out there and she was in need of a live in nanny for her kids. In return, I would get $1500 for my upcoming trip to Paris. It seemed like a fair trade when I agreed. When I arrived, however, let’s just say I had my work cut out for me. My aunt, bless her, is a believer that red meat isn’t the best for you and she doesn’t feed her family it. That meant for me (a lover of red meat) almost two months without any kind of beef. Instead of ground hamburger, she keeps the house stocked with ground turkey (I’ve mentioned my disdain for ground turkey before, right?), chicken, bison, and of course, fish. My first meal in my aunt’s house was pan seared salmon. It had a bit of a kick to it and I didn’t mind it while I sat on the floor of the living room, plate in my lap, trying it, each bite filled with apprehension.

The first Monday I was there, I would learn that there is more than one way to make meatloaf. My aunt asked me to make meatloaf, something I’d not yet done (and have only done a handful of times since). She laid out a package of ground turkey, oatmeal, Lipton soup mix, and was going to lay out ketchup until I vehemently stood there, arms crossed, insisting “no, that’s wrong.” She had sighed, and suggested half ketchup, half barbecue sauce. With all due respect I again shook my head no. I could not see past the fact she wanted to leave out the onion soup mix, replace the breadcrumbs with oats and absolutely demolish it by using ketchup. It baffled me because I knew no better. I’d always assumed everyone’s mum made meatloaf just like my mum did (then again, I’d never had meatloaf at any of my friends’ houses) and my aunt being mum’s sister should surely make it the same way. But I finally gave in, we would make it my aunt’s way, with ketchup IF I could have barbecue for dipping.

Truth is: It wasn’t so bad. Yes, at the time, I could not get over the fact that I was mixing raw, ground turkey with plain oats and ketchup, shaping into a loaf and putting it in a pan to cook. Was it as attractive as my mother’s? Of course not, nor did I expect it to be. It was my handiwork, my creation with my aunt’s guidance. I was, admittedly, still grossed out that she’d gone and made it “good for me” (when I was craving a big, juicy burger). Yet, I looked past the appearance and with a slightly upturned nose, tried the first bite while my aunt looked on, waiting. It wasn’t that bad, it was different, but it wasn’t bad. Have I or will I ever make it that way again? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean I’ll discourage you, dear reader, from eating it that way. I will recommend use of barbecue sauce over ketchup, but I’ll leave it up to you on how you would like to make it.

Last year, I had another experience with meatloaf differing from Mum’s and Mine. It comes from a coworker whom I work with and she’s a bit on the older side. She cooks differently than how I know; she doesn’t much care for meat, rather, she enjoys vegetables with a side of meat or none at all. So when we were talking about meatloaf on break at work, she mentioned her recipe. It starts out how I would make mine, with ground beef, barbecue sauce, and breadcrumbs but then hers gets a delicious addition: vegetables. She juliennes green bell peppers, shreds zucchini and carrots, finely chops onions and adds them all in. Since I simply adore vegetables (especially squash, zucchini, and bell peppers), that sounds delicious and rather balanced.

Recently, the opportunity to make meatloaf arose. Josh is always asking me to make meatloaf and since I had the afternoon free of work, I figured why not? We hit the grocery store, where I picked up an abundance of things and set off back home. It wasn’t until I’d gathered the ingredients that I’d realised I forgotten the packet of onion soup mix. That wasn’t too much of a problem, as it turns out because I had a whole spice cabinet at my disposal. From said cabinet, I grabbed the paprika, onion powder and that bottle of Goya all-spice. After all, I did learn that though mum makes the best meatloaf, mine doesn’t have to be like hers. Though I followed no recipe, I knew what I was doing. A half a cup of breadcrumbs, a lot of barbecue sauce, an egg yolk to bind and unlike Mum, I didn’t have a mixer at my disposal and got my hands dirty. Did I have fun? Of course. Once the meatloaf was on the pan and I had spread a layer of barbecue sauce on top, I put it into the heated oven and let the oven do it’s job. When I removed the meatloaf 40 minutes later to spread more barbecue sauce atop it, the house smelled absolutely delicious. It was as if I had opened up a door to my childhood yet, here I stood in my mother’s shoes, baking it. With more barbecue on top, I let the meatloaf finish cooking, and when it was done, waited before cutting into it. I wasn’t disappointed when I did. Each peace was uniform, and though it was a bit dry, that was nothing extra barbecue sauce couldn’t fix. Combined with fluffy mashed potatoes, I’d say it turned out quite all right.

~Recipe: Mum’s Meatloaf~

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds of ground hamburger, 85% lean
1 packet of Lipton’s Onion Soup mix
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup barbecue sauce
1 egg yolk

Method

  1. Heat oven to 375
  2. Combine all ingredients in a big bowl, either mixing with your hands or a mixer.
  3. Using a loaf pan for reference, shape into a loaf
  4. Empty loaf shaped mixture onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet
  5. Spread barbecue sauce on top, careful that it doesn’t drip over the edge
  6. Reduce heat to 350;  Bake for 40 minutes.
  7. Remove cookie sheet from oven and add more barbecue sauce, return pan to oven
  8. Bake an additional 5-10 minutes at 350.
  9. Turn off oven and let sit for additional 15 minutes. This allows it to stay warm, but not bake while it sets.
  10. Serve with your preference potatoes and optional green, enjoy!

~Recipe: Aunt Min’s Meatloaf~

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds of ground turkey
1 packet of Lipton’s Onion Soup mix
1 Cup oats
1 cup ketchup
1 egg yolk

Method

  1. Heat oven to 375
  2. Combine all ingredients in a big bowl, either mixing with your hands or a mixer.
  3. Using a loaf pan for reference, shape into a loaf
  4. Empty loaf shaped mixture onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet
  5. Spread ketchup on top, careful that it doesn’t drip over the edge
  6. Reduce heat to 350;  Bake for 40 minutes
  7. Remove cookie sheet from oven and add more ketchup, return pan to oven
  8. Bake an additional 5-10 minutes at 350.
  9. Turn off oven and let sit for additional 15 minutes. This allows it to stay warm, but not bake while it sets.
  10. Serve with your preference potatoes and optional green, enjoy!
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