Friday, December 02, 2005

Yoga and Leftovers

I went to a yoga class.

Three of us showed up last night at the little log cabin (as compared to the bigger log longhouse where the local band is currently setting up a dance floor for their "concert" on Saturday night), shuffled out of our boots and carhartts, and hung our coats and mittens up to dry. While we pulled our hair back into pony tails and rolled out our mats, our instructor stuffed the yoga class into the community-available dvd player.

It was the first yoga class I've ever taken that was free of charge. And it was in a log cabin, with a ceiling so low that I was prevented from doing the positions that required me to stand up too straight. Even the transportation had a first-time flavour to it. J. and I rode over together on the snowmachine - the first time we had attempted a transportation "coordination." One of those understated moments of couple-significance. He dropped me off, swung around to see if he could pick up our friend who was walking over (which he could, and did), and then spent the hour sporting about outside while M. and I tried to contortion off some off the "extra warmth" we are accumulating. When he returned to pick us up, we decided to pile three on the machine instead of dropping off M. and then returning for me. To add to the comedy, M. was given the driving honour. It was her first time on a snow-machine. So there we were, the three of us, clutching on to each other, laughing and lurching all the way home.

By the time J. and I got home, I was cold. And hungry. Quite a combination with which to enter into a kitchen. I was so cold and hungry, in fact, that I didn't even take the time to shimmy out of my carhartts and boots before I started pulling out pots and pans. I gave only a token greeting to the dogs and didn't even linger to help J. tuck the snowmachine under its cover. Rather, still dressed in full gear (which includes, lest their be doubt, a face mask) I was immediately engrossed in the task of heating up a dinner of leftover meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy.

Now I know that meatloaf (especially leftover meatloaf) has the 50's housewife reputation. It isn't something we ever had in our family growing up. In fact, I had never made it before. But I guess I have a familiarity with it that started in college. I was a hostess the summer after my first year of college at a local restaurant that specialized in meatloaf sandwiches. And, later, meatloaf was a specialty of a family that I lived with in Firenze. And, even more later, I discovered its haute potential while dining in New York. And, now, meatloaf has the kudo's of being one of my cozy favorites as well as fitting right square into my current budget of life-wealth, but monetary-poor.

Despite my appreciation for it, I hadn't really thought about "meatloaf" recently. That is, I hadn't thought about it until I went out for a brunch with J. on Sunday. My two eggs and two pieces of buttered toast cost $6. I thought that steep. But, J's heavily-nuked plate of thin slices of commercial meatloaf, heap of instant mashed potatoes, and steaming globs of powdered gravy cost $15. And I thought that was a steep travesty.

Meatloaf and mashed potatoes with gravy shouldn't be nuked - and it should never be whipped up from powder. That just seems......tragically unnecessary. The cozy comfort of this dish comes from the fact that it is made from humble ingredients for people with whom one has an overwhelming connection of familiarity. Not powder for strangers. I couldn't help but sit there watching this steaming plate of artificial convenience, imagining how glops of glunk had been globbed onto a plate and stuffed roughly into a high-powered commercial microwave. But it was that wide chasm between J's eager expectation and his dissapointment, more than the artificial origins or price of J's meal, that left me thinking that I should set out to see how I could incorporate meatloaf into our culinary fayre here.

And it worked! I used a base recipe from a cookbook I adore for cozy comforts. I adapted it to fit the ingredients already contained in my pantry. I filled our house with the warm welcoming perfume of a homecooked supper on one of the colder nights yet. And a few minutes of mixing produced a big hearty skillet of meatloaf - that has been feeding us dinners, and lunches, and sandwiches, and quick snacks. It was warm, hearty, perfect for leftovers and guaranteed to make us smile with cozy comforts. Where the weather gets cold, and feels even colder because you are scooting around in it on the back of a snowmachine, warm and hearty and cozy are just what is needed.

And when you are coming home from a grand evening of yoga classes in log cabins and side-splitting transportation stories, the access to warm and hearty leftovers is certainly a sign that one is enjoying la vita dolce.

We took our steaming plates of homemade convenience to the couch, plunked Lonesome Dove into the dvd player, and made an evening of it.

[Here's where I confess that I was so enamoured with the ease of eating well without stove time, that I paused the dvd for 5 minutes after we ate to jump up and make a pie plate of brownies from a Duncan Hines mix. Not all cozy comforts, I guess, have to come from scratch - at least not when time can be better spent enjoying the company of cherished ones!]

Pantry Meatloaf
adapted from The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook

butter
a chopped onion
1 cup bread crumbs
a small handful of oatmeal (in deference to a reference from J. about his mother's recipe)
1.3 pounds of lean ground beef
a couple elk bratwursts (freed of their casings)
1 can of diced tomatoes
2 eggs
1 cup of shredded parmesan or romano cheese
some hearty glugs of worcestire sauce
seasonings (salt, pepper, rosemary, sage, basil, cumin, creole seasonings, Old Bay, whatever you have and/or feel like using)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Heat up a cast-iron skillet, and saute the chopped onion in butter until just golden (around 3 minutes).

3. Mix all of the ingredients in a big bowl. When the onions are done, toss them in too. Mix well.

4. Shape mixture like a football in the cast-iron skillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with some olive oil. And bake until it is cooked throughout and all sizzly and crisp on the outside (around 1.5 hours).

3 Comments:

Blogger FishTaxi said...

yum, meat loaf. We just got done grinding and wrapping venison burger. I see lots of meat loafs in our future.

With glugs of worstershire sauce!

11:47 PM  
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