My Mom passed away a couple of weeks ago at the age of 91. Mom had a beautiful spirit, and was loved by virtually everyone she knew, and she could make two sons and a husband actually enjoy liver and onions. But the one thing she could not do, was never able to do, nor should have even attempted to do, was make that most comfortable of comfort foods, the meat loaf. The first time my wife offered me meat loaf we nearly got into an argument, because what my Mom had presented to me as meat loaf had made me so averse to the food that I refused to even try hers. This, needless to say, did not sit well with the wife. She took the item out of the oven, and presented it to me for inspection, saying “What’s wrong with Meatloaf?” Looking down at this evenly browned, wonderfully scented dish in front of me, I said, “This isn’t meatloaf!” She assured me (most forcefully if I recall) that it most certainly was. I then explained to her that what Mom had presented to us as meatloaf never looked or smelled this way, so please excuse me for saying this was not meatloaf, for indeed it was not as I had ever experienced that dish. I proceeded to taste my wife’s version, and pronounced it sheer ambrosia, a culinary masterpiece. Her reply was “It’s just the recipe off the Quaker Oats box.” I said no, “Mom always used that recipe, and this is not the same thing at all!” She still did not believe me. I then had to describe what Mom’s meat loaf looked like. It invariably took the form of an unappetizing lump of a grayish shade, with a texture akin to lard, and was virtually without any taste. My wife still did not understand, even when I told her that “The dog will not eat Mom’s meat loaf.” A couple of weeks later we traveled the 60 or so miles from college to my home town to visit for the weekend, and had our dog with us. When we arrived home Mom and Dad were out, so I looked in the ‘fridge. Sure enough, lurking in plastic wrap, was a chunk of Mom’s meat loaf. With my wife standing there to witness it, I cut off a piece and offered it to the dog, who sniffed at it and then refused it completely. My wife looked at the meat, looked at me, then said, “I understand why you reacted the way you did!” I’ve eaten a lot of meatloaf since then, but have always wondered what it was that Mom did that turned a pound of good quality hamburger, tomato paste, rolled oats, onion, salt and pepper and eggs, into a gray, unrecognizable mass? She and my wife used the same recipe, but there was something lacking in Mom’s approach; I don’t know that she ever managed an edible meatloaf, but I doubt it. Maybe, if there is a heavenly kitchen, Mom has finally learned to make meatloaf, for dear lady that she was, it was a touch that escaped her during her time on Earth.
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