Gourmandistan

Comfort; food.

meatloaf-sandwich

We would prefer that Gourmandistan be a place of lightness and pleasure, where “tragedy” and “sorrow” are simply overly dramatic ways to describe ingredients wasted or a recipe gone awry. Unfortunately, real tragedy and sorrow recently breached our little domain, when Michelle lost her beloved younger brother. We found ourselves in a maelstrom of anguish, confusion and sadness—away from home, and with a broken oven. Gourmandistan seemed very, very far away.

Neighbors and friends, showing the best of a small, close-knit community, delivered a plethora of ready-to-eat foods to Michelle’s parents’ home in Western Kentucky. There were hams, casseroles and salads, pimento cheese, turkey, barbecue, sheet cakes, cookies and even frozen lasagna. As we continued to move through the painful process of parting ways with a loved one, we still felt echoes of Gourmandistan—particularly through our interest in the way people give and receive comfort through food. Is gooey, crusty macaroni and cheese more comforting than bright and sunny slices of fresh fruit?  What are the merits of country ham versus beef tenderloin in a crisis? These were purely intellectual exercises for Michelle (who always takes comfort in the rituals of selection, preparation and presentation of food, particularly in stressful times) because even after her mom’s oven was repaired, there was neither time nor energy to cook.

After our return home, Michelle sought comfort preparing a weekend family lunch, making what may be the uber-example of comfort food—meatloaf.  Ground veal, ground beef, mild pork sausage and Spring onions were purchased from our local Saturday farmers’ markets as we returned to our familiar seasonal patterns. Michelle and her mom discussed and felt their way to the proper mix of meat, eggs, onions, breadcrumbs and seasoning. It became part of a wistful yet pleasant meal on our screened back porch, sharing memories as we welcomed the sounds, smells and greenery of our lush Spring.

Tonight, we take comfort in fresh-baked bread, leftover meatloaf sandwiches, and one another.

Ross and Michelle

MEATLOAF

  • 2 lbs. ground veal
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. mild pork sausage
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped (white and green parts)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • olive oil
  • handful of parsley, chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • splash Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. whole grain mustard
  • 1 to 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • salt & pepper
  • splash or 2 of milk
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 c. catsup
  • brown sugar
  • apple cider vinegar

Mix meats together in a large bowl.

Sauté onions and scallions in olive oil.  After a few minutes, when onions are soft, add garlic.  Cook a little longer.  Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

When onions and garlic are cool, mix into meat along with parsley, eggs, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, breadcrumbs, salt & pepper and a splash or two of milk.  Mixture should be quite moist.

Place meat into 2 loaf pans, and flatten out.  Using a wooden spoon, push meat away from sides of pan.  Lay slices of bacon over tops of loaves.

Mix catsup with equal parts of brown sugar and vinegar to taste.  Cook down a bit in a small saucepan.

Drizzle a little catsup mixture over loaves.

Bake for 50 minutes, adding remainder of catsup mixture periodically as loaves cook.

Rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.

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16 comments

  1. I am so, so sorry for your loss. This post moved me to tears. The intersection between food and emotion is compelling; I first started down my own culinary path eating cookies in the aftermath of my grandfather’s funeral. I did find tremendous comfort in the experience ohf receiving food prepared with love. Hang in there.

  2. Ruth Coleman

    Life, grief and all the in betweens. Constants help us through. So very appropriate that you would turn to food…its preparation, presentation and comforting nourishment…at this time. A beautiful, moving piece. Thank you for sharing it with us. Peace, my friend.

  3. Bill Beck

    A pleasure to read as always, but your sharing of the comfort and familiarity of life’s touchstones make this a beautiful post.

  4. Valerie Timmons

    I’m with Stella. Maybe the ‘comfort’ part is knowing the love and care put into the gift of food.

  5. Karen Veith

    Food, and family are the twins of comfort and love at a time when well meaning words have gone with the day’s sun. The art of creating, be it a painting, poem, garden, or a favorite dish is one’s way of sharing love.

    And I so love the photograph!

  6. Michelle,
    I send deep sympathy. How hard to lose this precious brother. I want to send you a real note as well. Could you email your postal address to me, please?
    Thank you for sharing this beautiful post, and both the new and vintage pictures. Now rest – grief is the most exhausting work.

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