There aren't many cookbooks in my cookbook library that make me cry.
But I cry every time I read Nathalie Dupree's recipe for Mint Julep Meatloaf from her Matters of Taste cookbook, a cookbook of personal stories based on the 27 menus included in her early PBS show of the same name.
Nathalie Dupree, recently called by Garden & Gun magazine the Doyenne of Southern Cooking, started Rich's Cooking School in the large Atlanta department store in 1975 and her fifteenth cookbook was recently published. I have seven of her cookbooks that I use all the time.
Hers and Lee Bailey's would be the last cookbooks to go if ever forced to winnow down my collection to two authors. (That's my maternal grandfather in a snapshot by Lee's stack of cookbooks. He--my grandfather, not Lee--owned a butcher shop in the small town where my mother grew up.)
Matters of Taste is a book of personal stories along with recipes, some sad stories, some funny, and one for Cold Curried Tomato Soup that is the sexiest love story I've ever read in a cookbook. But her Mint Julep Meatloaf story makes my heart ache for every child who ever heard angry arguments between their parents, including my own children.
Her parents quarreled all the time when they were together. She thought her father was leaving them all soon. He always said he was going to...The little girl felt it was her fault that her parents constantly argued. If she left home her father might not leave...Her parents were still shouting when she left the house, and no one asked her where she was going...After a day of trying to find a house that looked like a new little girl might be wanted, she returned home...It was late when she walked in, and the heat of the day was gone. No one said hello. No one had missed her...Her dad left soon after and never came home again.
The little girl grew up and all her life believed that good food is a way to nourish people.
When she moved to another country, she served American meatloaf, macaroni, and greens to her exiled friends. When she was left alone, she cooked onions to comfort her in her loneliness. And always, she kept gingersnaps on hand and a jar of peanut butter. All of them, when she need them, soothed and comforted her.
To all the children who probably aren't getting off a school bus this fall of pandemic, may the cookie jar be full and their homes filled with love and laughter. To all their parents, here is the Doyenne of Southern Cooking's recipe for Mint Julep Meatloaf that she attributed to Charles Carden Snow. The recipe says to make two loaves; I've done that but this time just made one large one.
4 pounds lean ground meat [she uses 1/2 beef and 1/2 lamb but I use sirloin or very lean ground beef]
2 eggs, beaten slightly
1/8 teaspoon curry powder
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 onion, chopped
1 beef bouillon cube, crushed
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large handful fresh mint leaves, dried and crushed [I use fresh mint, slivered, not dried except in winter]
1 cup chili sauce [divided into 1/4 cups]
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup bourbon
Garnish: fresh mint leaves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, F. Combine meat, eggs, curry, salt, pepper, bread crumbs, onion, bouillon, garlic, mint, and 1/4 cup of the chili sauce. Form the meat mixture into two thick, oval-shaped loaves. Pour the water into a greased baking dish that has a cover. Gently place the loaf into the dish. With a tablespoon, make a deep indentation down the center of each of the loaves. Combine the bourbon and 1/4 cup of the chili sauce and fill the indentations, pouring any remaining mixture over the loaves. Cover and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Uncover, spread each loaf with 1/4 cup of the remaining chili sauce, and bake uncovered until brown. Remove from pan. Garnish with mint leaves. Freeze one loaf and serve the other.
This meatloaf is a far cry from the dry onion soup mix meatloaf I grew up on. Mama's was good, almost any homemade meatloaf is, but I went on to two better recipes and now this one that we think tops them all. No need to get the ketchup bottle out for eating this meatloaf. The sauce is sensational!
Thank you so much to so many who emailed me that they understood my reasons for turning off comments here at this stage of my life.