United States of Meatloaf
Let's agree to agree: while our politics and personal tastes may differ, journalists Frank Bruni and Jennifer Steinhauer wonder if this classic comfort food can unite us all.
Although we're the closest of friends, the two of us are culinary opposites. When home for dinner, Frank tends to order in. Jennifer cooks, often from an ambitious new recipe she’s dying to try. But we’re twins in one regard. Neither of us goes more than a week without making a meatloaf, crafted from memory or invented on the spot. It’s the balm for our worst exhaustion, a springboard for our greatest inspiration.
One of Frank’s specialties is an exquisite lamb loaf with pine nuts and feta, though he has recently become addicted to a pork loaf with chorizo and Manchego. Jennifer favors a turkey loaf spiced with Sriracha. And neither of us can resist the traditional sweet-tangy, all-beef loaf championed by Frank’s mother. In fact, we talk about meatloaf so much that we realized we should write about it and give the world what it so clearly lacked: an entire cookbook celebrating this quintessential comfort food.
We quickly learned as we started researching recipes that everyone, and we mean everyone, believes his or her meatloaf to be the definitive one. Also, chefs adore it: Chopped’s Alex Guarnaschelli gave us her mom’s version, with sour cream and tarragon. Mario Batali has a stuffed meatloaf that he handed over, with ground beef, ground pork and prosciutto. Daniel Patterson, known for his vegetarian cooking, invented a particularly nectarous loaf from shiitake mushrooms and zucchini for an Italian soup kitchen run by Massimo Bottura. (True story!)
Politicians are vocal about their meatloaf points of view. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has one she makes with ciabatta, and Speaker Paul Ryan hunts his own deer for his venison loaf. But know that meatloaf is the most bipartisan of foods, binding our nation as surely as it bridged the culinary differences between the two of us—who remain united in the belief that nothing else tastes as much like home.
Frank Bruni is an op-ed columnist and Jennifer Steinhauer is a veteran writer for the New York Times. They are the co-authors of the new book A Meatloaf in Every Oven (Hachette).