Suddenly the weather is in sync with the calendar, and we are enjoying a soupçon of cool October weather. I pulled a turtleneck out of the closet to wear when Luke the wonder dog and I went for our first walk this morning. He is feeling a little friskier in the coolth, and tugs on his leash when he thinks he has a good change of catching one of the many squirrels we trot past. To date the squirrels are still winning. But the odds might change, as they are distracted and are concentrating on gathering up acorns and pecans. I found a dozen acorns in one of the window boxes the other day, when I was attempting to tidy up after a long, hot summer of prolific weed cultivation. We now look a little more respectable with window boxes full of cheerful yellow mums and fresh-faced pansies. It is cool enough to be out in the garden again, instead of wistfully looking out at it from the air conditioned house. Soon the spring tulip, daffodil and grape hyacinth bulbs will be delivered. We have lots of gardening to look forward to.
Another pleasant surprise was rediscovering meatloaf. Since I stay as far away from the stove as I can in the summer, there is never a chance that I’m going to wander into the kitchen to whip up a tasty meatloaf meal when it is hot outside. Mr. Friday likes a hefty meatloaf sandwich for lunch, which uses up all the leftovers in a very efficient fashion. We are trying our level best not to waste food.
But still I got a couple of odd reactions when I mentioned that I was going to write about meatloaf this week. My daughter, the former Pesky Pescatarian, was horrified at the thought of covering meatloaf with bacon, until I told her I had found a recipe that used turkey bacon and ground turkey instead of the greasy, but delicious, pork bacon and ground beef of her childhood. And my brother, who speaks for the trees, assured me that he hardly ate beef any more. (Although our discussion reminded him that he hadn’t had a good steak in a long time. I wonder what will be on his grill this weekend?)
The reason I found a recipe with bacon carefully woven over the surface of a meatloaf was purely artistic. A meatloaf is not very visually arresting – it is a dark brown lump, rather like a deflated football. Perhaps I could have added a garnish or two, but I never garnish my meatloaf, do you? I suppose I could have made some radish rosettes, but I do like verisimilitude. And a bowl of mashed potatoes! How inspiring is that? A field of beige blandness, with a glistening golden pat of melting butter! You can see it in your mind’s eye, and it will make you think fondly of a steaming mountain of mashed potatoes with Richard Dreyfuss cackling madly, but if you saw one of my watercolors of mashed potatoes, you would avert your eyes straight away to the Letters to the Editor and not bother to read Food Friday.
Meatloaf is prosaic stuff. And deeply personal. Mr. Friday didn’t care for my mother’s recipe, which is the game I brought to the marriage. And I didn’t like his mother’s meatloaf, which called for ground veal and ketchup. My word! We eventually fashioned our own meatloaf formula, and all is good. But he did enjoy the novelty of the basket-woven bacon version for dinner one night, and then for his next three lunches. Experimentation is good. And as we are not flying in private jets to go on a royal tour, I feel secure in having a little beef every once in a while this fall, since it warms our souls for dinner, and for so many lunches.
“We even talked like Hemingway characters, though in travesty, as if to deny our discipleship: That is your bed, and it is a good bed, and you must make it and you must make it well. Or: Today is the day of the meatloaf. The meatloaf is swell. It is swell but when it is gone the not-having meatloaf will be tragic and the meatloaf man will not come anymore.”