comfort food

Writing 101: Happy (Insert Special Occasion Here)!

Writing 101: Happy (Insert Special Occasion Here)!.

For me, it would be Happy Spending Time with Grammy!

My favorite meals are both cooked by my grandmother. One of them can be made by anyone (meat pie) and often is but the best childhood memory of a meal that I can possibly think of that never fails to fill me with joy (and homesickness) is my grandmother’s meatloaf. Now I know most of you are probably puking on to your keyboards right now but to me, that is the ultimate comfort food.

I have had many meatloaves over the years. Barbeque ones, bacon ones, salty ones, mushroom ones, and even one filled with mac n’ cheese. And while each meatloaf is probably good in its own right, my grandmother’s is something special. Most people think of meatloaf and think of dried bricks of hamburg, excuse me, ground beef, and that it must be swimming in gravy to be any good at all.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you are wrong to think that. This meatloaf comes in your standard 9×13 baking pan. It is about 2 inches high, smothered in tomato paste of all things, and filled with chopped onions and love. It’s a little greasy but warm and perfectly cooked. The smell makes you mouth water the minute you enter the house. And if you go peak in the oven door, you can see the perfection at work.

The homemade mashed potatoes with real cream and butter sit on the counter having just been finished and the green beans (substitute peas, carrots, or corn as necessary) are warming in the microwave. The plates are paper and the cutlery is plastic but it’s all waiting for you. There is a bag of fresh rolls sitting in the middle of the island table with a dish of butter and one of margarine to spread as you like.

We would all gather around the table and say our blessing for food and family, health and happiness and then it was time to go serve yourself. Get a plate and fill it up. Two pieces of meatloaf, each no more than a 2×2 square. A big dollup of mashed potatoes and vegetables so mom didn’t yell at you.

Get a cup of milk or water. Grab a roll and split it open with your fingers, letting the crumbs fall onto the plate. Slather on some butter and close it back up. Fork in one hand, roll in the other, it’s time to begin the meal.

The mashed potatoes slide off my fork into my mouth with ease and smoothness. The green beans crunch in the perfect pitch. And lastly, the meatloaf is salty and filling. Not overly salty mind you but the perfect amount. It has a little tart bitter type taste from the tomato paste and a nice after taste of onion. It isn’t dry or super thick. It’s a mouthful of perfection.

I sigh with happiness and plow my way through the meal. I continue to munch on the roll in between bites, scooping little bits of mashed potatoes onto it as I do. I reach for and butter a second roll and use the end of it to slop up any leftovers on my plate.

I slug down my water and sit back on the stool with a contented smile. My grandmother looks at me and laughs. She knows how happy her meatloaf makes me.

And she continues to make it when I visit now. Even a grown-up can use comfort good every once in awhile.