Meat loaf, for me, is a traditional staple that conjures up visions of June Cleaver in her starched white apron and perfect family smiling lovingly from the table. While my Mom never wore a starched apron, she did, however, serve this comforting dish to a smiling family – each of us “oohing” and “ahhing” over this simple loaf, quietly hoping that we’d be chosen to receive the coveted “butt.”
In our house, there was a great debate over whether or not ketchup was an appropriate topping for this family favorite. Five of us loved ketchup, my Dad being the most vocal supporter. “You can never have too much ketchup,” he’d say. Then he would regale my sisters and I with a tale about how the first time my Mom made him meat loaf, there wasn’t enough ketchup. I, on the other hand, prefer my meat loaf bare – no ketchup allowed. I find it easier to enjoy the spices and juices of the actual meat, without a thick layer of tomatoes on top. This, of course, creates a rather interesting situation for my Mom, who has resolved to leave a portion of the meat loaf ketchup-less—that way all members of the family are pleased.
While ketchup has been a constant in our family’s meat loaf adventures, the recipe itself has seen many variations. Pork, beef, even ground turkey all have gotten the royal meat loaf treatment. Sometimes bacon is added to the mix; its smoky fat melding into the meat, creating a blissful meal for any meat lover. But, sometimes simple is best – for it’s Mom’s original recipes that always receives the most praise.
How do you like your meat loaf? Topped with ketchup? Smothered in gravy? What’s your family’s secret ingredient?
Get recipes: Meatloaf Recipes