The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Downriver Dispatches

News of Western Wahkiakum County and Naselle


November 19, 2020

Why Do People Eat Meatloaf?

I was first introduced to meatloaf growing up as a child in the 1950s by my German mother who told me it was a common dish among German people. As I grew older I realized that there were countless recipes not unlike the jambalaya recipes from southern Louisiana; too many differences to count. I wasn’t intrigued until many decades later when I realized that most restaurants didn’t have meatloaf on the menu except on certain occasions and that depended on the locality or from a southern style buffet. After having traveled all over the United States and trying to find the perfect meatloaf, I came to understand that there are as many different types of recipes as there are people. This gave me the idea to come up with my own, but when and where did this mysterious concoction come from?

A 2017 article from Bon by Frank Bruni and Jennifer Steinhauer asked the question where it all began. There have been several various theories; most agree that meatloaf may have emerged in medieval Europe around the fifth century by the Romans. Meatloaf in its many appearances was often a sort of gastronomic refuge for leftovers as a way to stretch meat. It was a way to use up excess food scraps that was on the verge of expiration.

It was during the Great Depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s that meatloaf made its heyday and became a staple of many Americans’ diets because it helped extend meat farther. It was with this thought that American consumers could be fed with less meat. Now I understand why my mother had a meat grinder. Meat grinders were common during the depression and on through the 50s and 60s. By the 1970s Supermarkets sold ground meat cheap enough that grinding your own was not necessary and became less popular. By making meat grinding less difficult this helped to popularize meatloaf.

It was in colonial times when German immigrants made an amalgam of ground pork and cornmeal that established the meat-starch combination of most meatloaves. Americans have a fondness for meatloaf to a point where it has become one of the comfort foods alongside hamburgers and hotdogs.

The first known recorded recipe for the modern American meatloaf is from the late 1870s. According to Andrew F. Smith, a writer and lecturer on food and culinary history, who indicated that you should finely chop whatever cold meat you had. Smith also indicated that beef was more likely used because New Englanders killed their cows before winter when feeding the cows was more difficult. They took full advantage of every last bit of the meat, looking for uses for the cheap cuts, as well as adding oats and other vegetables, and meatloaf was one result. To the chopped beef they added ingredients like many meatloaf recipes today, but back then, Smith said, meatloaf was for breakfast and not for dinner. In the winter the cooked meatloaf would last days longer because of the cold weather acting as a type of refrigerator.The one thing meat lovers like is a meatloaf sandwich made from the leftovers.

My recipe is simple and I gladly give it to you the readers of The Wahkiakum County Eagle who requested this. The meat is your choice, but I recommend ground beef. In a food processor add one cup of dry oats along with the spices of your choice and the amount you choose to include. I use paprika, garlic powder, cayenne, black pepper, and salt. Blend until it becomes flour. Mince a half a small onion and half a small bell pepper and mix it and three eggs together with the flour blend until thoroughly mixed. Add the hamburger and mix together until blended together. Mold the meat into a loaf and place it in a baking pan. Make sure to put catsup over the entire top of the loaf to prevent it from drying out. Place the meatloaf in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for an hour and a half. After cooking let it set for ten minutes to gel before serving. Although there are millions of recipes, I hope you enjoyed the history and try my recipe for meatloaf.


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