Food history is full of surprises. The history of meatloaf, a North American staple, offers more than a trip down culinary lane. It provides a glimpse into how advances in technology have shaped the way we eat and prepare food today.
It turns out, the idea of mixing meat with a tenderizing filler traces back to the 4th & 5th century AD, when a Roman cookbook presented a recipe for patties made of chopped meat, bread & wine. But it wasn’t until the late 1800’s that American meatloaf was born, inspired by recipes offered by manufactures of the newly invented meat grinder.
In the 1940’s, WWII rationing spawned meat-free loaves, whereas postwar creativity in the 1950’s & ’60’s produced the likes of Bacon-Dill Meatloaf. In the 1970’s & ’80’s, veal, pork & beef ‘meatloaf mix’ came into vogue. In the 1990’s, restaurateurs marketed upscale versions and today, innovations continue as loaves are stuffed, wrapped or laced with international flavors.
When we cook meatloaf, we’re connected to something bigger: a tradition, a time line. Meatloaf is elemental. It’s enduring, served without undue fuss or expensive implements …. comfort food without a doubt.