Written and Photographed by Annelies Zijderveld
Childhood. Some things you grow out of (Velcro black patent Mary Janes) and some things you don’t (a penchant for wearing the Wonder Woman Underoos out-of-house).
I was a finicky child, best evidenced in my vehement refusal to eat certain foods.
No avocados because the shade of green was too green. Pass on the lima beans and peas because of texture.
The be-all end-all of food violators, though, stood out among the rest: meatloaf.
The very idea of eating ground meat pressed with green bell pepper and onions oozing with sticky tomato sauce made my skin crawl.
That is, until I met my match in Diane’s meatloaf.
To this day, I still don’t think she understood the power she had in swaying my fixed and stalwart point of view. I was deadset against it, no, hellbent.
Diane started out as my mother’s friend. Over the course of a weekend, as things go in those pre-teen years, her similarly aged daughter, Kathi (who I had decided not to like) and I suddenly became inseparable.
Odds were stacked on us being at one or the other’s house on any given weekend.
We explored her neighborhood on foot, lazed around the pool during summer vacations, took off for the movies, and spent much of our time involved in our local youth group.
We even enjoyed a long stint as part of a trio with our friend Courtney, singing at church camp and beyond in three-part harmonies.
Together, we were unstoppable.
And so it came to pass that on one of these many occasions I found myself the happy recipient of dinner at Diane’s table.
I would venture to say that my manners overruled my stomach and sensibilities. That night, before me sat a loaf of meat baked by Diane and I had to try a bite—just to be polite.
I had to work up the gumption to put fork to mouth, inwardly wincing at what I imagined would be its taste.
Her meatloaf won me over from that first bite on.
I think this was because it didn’t try too hard to hide extra ingredients in its marbled depths. The top of the meatloaf wasn’t shellacked in ketchup or red sauce.
Nope, she served this straightforward meatloaf with a dollop of applesauce and that somehow clinched the deal. The sweet and the savory ruled my tastebuds.
Throughout college, Diane sent me an Easter basket every year and made sure I knew I was one of her girls. She always went one step beyond what was expected.
When I got married in October, Diane gave me perhaps the best gift of all: she shared the recipe to her meatloaf.
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup Pepperidge Farms stuffing mix, or 1/2 cup breadcrumbs mixed with 1 teaspoon garlic powder (increase the amount if you prefer a drier meatloaf)
- 1 egg, beaten
- applesauce, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix the beef, onion, tomato sauce, milk, stuffing mix, and egg in a large bowl until firm and well-incorporated.
- Transfer to a loaf pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until fully cooked. If you have an instant-read thermometer, the meatloaf will be 160 degrees F at its center when done.
- Serve with applesauce on the side.
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