Throwback Thursday: Meatloaf

It may seem as American as pumpkin pie, but a kind of meatloaf is mentioned in the Roman cookery book Apicius in the 5th century AD and has its ‘modern’ origins in Belgium, Germany and the Scandinavian countries.
Meatloaf, the dish, not the late singer, has such a presence in the American psyche that in 2017 it had an entire cookbook devoted to it, A Meatloaf in Every Oven, by New York Times journalists Frank Bruni and Jennifer Steinhauer, colleagues who shared a passion for meatloaf and turned their hobby into a book.
The dish is so “American” as to inspire passion, even homage, to what we might regard as everyday supper; or is it?
Alex Beggs, writing in Bon Appéttit, observed that the food historian Andrew Smith had noted that early (in American terms, around the 1870s) meatloaf was eaten for breakfast. The magazine wrote that meatloaf became a staple of many Americans’ diets during the Depression, “so that more people could be fed with less meat”.
“By then meat grinders were common and meat grinding less difficult, two developments that helped to popularise meatloaf. In the 1940s meatloaf was an emblem of wartime ingenuity; this was the era of Penny Prudence’s ‘Vitality Loaf’, made with beef, pork and liver.”
Ever since, it seems, Americans have presumed meatloaf to be their own, as American as hamburgers and hotdogs. Fair enough; in South Africa where many of us grew up eating it, we may think of it as ours too, as might Australians. But Wikipedia notes that “American meatloaf has its origins in scrapple, a mixture of ground pork and cornmeal served by German-Americans in Pennsylvania since colonial times”. It adds, however, that meatloaf “did not appear in (American) cookbooks until the late 19th century”.
Yet, the history of meatloaf is much deeper and older. There are variations of it in many countries, from Belgium (vleesbrood), the Czech Republic (sekaná, meaning chopped) and Germany (hackbraten) to the Philippines (embutido) to Sweden (köttfärslimpa) and Turkey (dalyan köfte), as well as Italy’s polpettone.
Cook’s Illustrated wrote that meatloaf “typically contains a milk and bread panade that helps lock in moisture. But the textural enhancement comes at a cost: all of that starchy bread dulls flavour”.
The Atlantic reported that America’s Culinary Arts Institute published a recipe in 1940 for a savoury meatloaf “that called for beef, vegetable soup, and cereal flakes”, while in 1957, a recipe for pork loaf appeared ...