Get ready for a Dantastic take on American staple with Dan’s signature meatloaf! This classic dish is always perfect for a family meal and this recipe couldn’t be easier. Serve this up with our smashed & mashed potatoes and a little parmesan broccolini for a Dan good meal!
While many think of Meatloaf as a distinctly American dish, the origins of this blue collar classic actually emerged in medieval Europe sometime around the fifth century. Well at least a relative of the modern meatloaf. Our first recorded recipe for the modern American meatloaf is from the 1870s. Food historian Andrew Smith covers the recipe in detail explaining that instructed cooks finely chop pretty much whatever meat they had available. More than likely it would have been beef due to cattle being slaughtered before Winter. To minimize waste, many cooks looked for uses of cheap cuts and thus Meatloaf became a popular choice.
Much like modern meatloaf, they would add pepper, salt, onion, slices of milk-soaked bread and egg. However there was a large difference between modern meatloaf and this original recipe: Modern was for dinner but the old wass for breakfast. The late 1800s would bring more meatloaf-esque recipes to the table with one for ground veal with bread crumbs and eggs appearing in the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. However the metaphorical meatloaf game would rise to a new level in the 1890s with the spread of industrial meatpacking. This industry would generate a lot of scraps that would then be chopped or ground leading to another boom in not just meatloaf but hamburger and meatballs.
As time grew on, many variations of the meatloaf would appear. Often these recipes would reflect the cook’s European heritage. For example, one American recipe took veal, ham, and bread crumbs then seasoned it with mace, cayenne, lemon rind, and a touch of nutmeg inspired by common French cooking. Meatloaf would continue to grow in popularity with Americans during the great depression due to its ability to help cooks stretch their meat farther and feed large groups with less meat. This plus the widespread use of home meat grinders helped popularize it. We would see another spike in Meatloaf’s popularity during the Second World War. During this time, meatloaf was referred to as Penny Prudence's Vitality Loaf, and made with beef, pork, and liver. Later on The Culinary Arts Institute would publish a recipe for a savory Meatloaf with beef, vegetable soup, and cereal.
By the 1950s, meatloaf was permanently ingrained into the American diet. Between Betty Crocker recipes, and 365 Ways to Cook Hamburger (which included a whopping 70 recipes for meatloaf with highlights including ketchup filled peach halves, and mashed bananas for some), the dish was more popular than ever. The dish would start to appear in anything from American diners to fine dining from this point forward and even in 2023, the dish is still ever so popular for the average American.