What's for dinner?

I've just finished reading Laura Shapiro's book Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America. It was really interesting to read about how hard manufacturers pushed convenience foods and what a tough sell it was for consumers. No matter how busy women were they didn't seem to be that impressed with convenience foods. Cake mixes were pretty much a failure until they changed them so you had to add your own eggs. I think you had to feel like you were doing something.

I grew up in the 60s and my mother started working full-time when I was around ten. So, we ate our fair share of recipes clipped from women's magazines from that time. We always had the more-time consuming, harder-to-prepare dishes on the weekends, but we ate lots of casseroles during the week. Things like spam with baked beans, tuna noodle casserole, hamburger pie with mashed potatoes and cheese on top, salmon loaf with cream of celery soup (I couldn't manage more than a few bites of this one), and a crazy tuna mixture baked with tater tots arranged in rings on top. I don't think we ever ate this casserole, but it's a good example of the standard fare at the time.


We didn't have a lot of money and she only cooked one dinner—if you didn't eat it, you went hungry. So you learned to like (or at least tolerate) what was put in front of you. But the beauty of growing up and becoming an adult is that you don't have to eat what you don't like any more. So, no more salmon loaf or Spam for me—lima beans either.

I'm not a big convenience food person simply because I try to avoid all those unpronounceable chemicals and prefer the taste of real food. So, except for the occasional craving I get for tuna noodle casserole, I rarely make any of my mom's casserole recipes. I do make several of her more traditional recipes, though. Like this one for meatloaf. If you want that salmon loaf recipe ((((shudder))))), you'll have to find it yourself. :)

Marion's Meatloaf

2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup grated onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
2/3 cup dry bread crumbs
1.5 to 2 pounds ground beef or a combination of beef, pork, and veal

Beat eggs with the milk. Add grated onion, salt, pepper, and sage. Add the breadcrumbs and soak for a few minutes until they absorb the liquid. Mix in the ground meat and pack into a loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1.5 to 2 hours. spreading ketchup over the top before the last half hour of cooking.

We always had this with mashed potatoes and green beans. I've made it with other accompaniments but they just don't feel right. And it makes wonderful sandwiches the next day.


Jennicakes said...

Janet, you made a dream come true for Hambone. He asked for meatloaf tonight, and now that I have your recipe, I finally said ok.

Catherine said...

That photo of the Spam casserole - ewwww - not good. . . .

cindy said...

this made me smile! the recipe that makes me shudder to this day, is tuna patties! and i cannot stand the smell of spam still, after having so much as a kid.

Apron Thrift Girl said...

I read part of this book for book club and found what I read fascinating. It is amazing to think that society didn't want all of those processed frozen foods but now they are so much a part of many people's diet. I am so sad that I can buy a can of organic tomatoes from Muir glen that has just tomatoes in it. But if I buy a mainstream organic brand they have to put sugar in it. Your meatloaf sounds delicious. I think I'll have to make it this week.

janet said...

I forgot to say what I hated most about Spam—perhaps I was blocking it from my mind. It was my "job" to open the can with that funny little key that was attached to the bottom. No problem there. But, if you know anything about Spam, you know that it's covered with this gelatinous goo that needs to be rinsed off. Yuk.

And, yes, I remember tuna patties, although we called them tuna burgers. Put them on buns with enough other stuff and you hardly know what you're eating :)

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your post, Janet, and have read the book and found it interesting, too. I remember my Mother making packaged angel food cake (upended on a soda or beer bottle to cool) and my younger brothers enjoying TV dinners as they watched their favorite shows. When I got married, my mother-in-law had us to dinner once and made something called 'ham loaf,' which I had never had - I liked it - but my husband said he had it so much growing up he never wanted to taste it again.