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The Mystery of the Meatloaf

  • Friday, April 4, 2014



‘Dum. Dum. Dum like hell!”

Reliable authority has revealed that the above words are among the first ever uttered by me.

I was (as often as possible) mimicking my irascible German great-grandmother. She used to repeat this phrase – mostly about herself – while thumping her forehead with her fist after absently mindedly goofing.

She was a great reader and always had a book propped up by a brick on the kitchen counter. She alternately read and worked. Thus distracted, she regularly did things like breaking eggs into a bowl, tossing them down the sink and attempting to whisk the shells.

I’ve often been told I was just like her. Many of my domestic disasters have been culinary as well.

My most spectacular goof in this category was the time I exploded two gallons of rich, creamy lobster dip in our Air Force Base kitchen while we were entertaining the wing commander and his wife.

Missteps like this are not symptoms of my encroaching dotage! I’ve always been absent minded, but prefer to believe I’m actually too future minded, often thinking of what’s coming next and losing track of the task at hand.

A recent example is what Agatha Christie might have dubbed “The Mystery of the Meatloaf.”

Mom used to whip up a meatloaf nearly every week, basically using four ingredients: meat, onions, eggs, bread crumbs. It was always wonderful and I’ve never really been able to duplicate it, so I cobbled together a new recipe from various sources.

My version included ground sirloin, for less fat; salsa, for more punch; oats, for additional fiber; and shredded raw zucchini, for better health. The latter, recipe writers assured me, would also keep it moist. In addition, I made a suggested sauce to coat the top during and after cooking.

I washed my hands, bandaged a broken nail, spread out the myriad of ingredients, and began slicing, chopping, shredding and assembling this entrée. I decanted the loaf onto a broiler pan to drain fat, and put it in the oven. Just about the time it was starting to smell good and I was finishing cleaning up, the aforementioned mystery appeared: the Band Aid had disappeared.

“Dear Lord,” I prayed aloud so He would surely hear me, “please don’t let that Band-Aid be in the meatloaf!”

I began thrashing through the garbage. No luck. But I decided it was sterile and my hands had been scrubbed clean. And besides, I wasn’t planning this for company – but in a way even worse – for Jim. What would I tell him? I decided that, too: nothing.

The meatloaf was almost done and with the brown sugar substitute and balsamic vinegar-based sauce, it smelled luscious. Then Jim came home.

“Boy that aroma’s wonderful! What in the world did you put in it?”

“Oh,” I teased, “I’m not telling!”

He couldn’t wait to try it. I figured if I sliced it out of his sight and then poked around each slice with a fork and found the offending object, I’d just toss it.

We had three dinners and two lunches out of this delicious concoction. Jim kept observing that I served it in chunks that fell apart. Alter several sighs of relief at no dreaded discovery, I said my secret ingredient guaranteed moistness. “That sure worked,” he agreed. Then asked why I was thumping my forehead with my fist.

I sighed. “It’s just an old family tradition.”

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