Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Nonna used To Say...

Got Agita? It's Not What You Eat; It's What Eats You

Sunday, October 17, 2010

MeatLoaf Made In America

Francis Reubens Bello...Grandpa Frank to me. He came to America from Italy at 17 to attend a 17! He worked with numbers and figures, very precise and deliberate, but with a winning smile and ready laugh. Tall and lanky, Grandpa Frank was on the "delicate" side. In the winter, beneath his white, starched collared shirt, he'd neatly layer sheets of newspaper to keep the chill away. Except for an occasional striped cotton shirt, worn when mowing his patch of lawn...he always wore a white dress shirt and a suit and never left home without his fedora. Grandpa will always be remembered as a kind, gentle, learned Italian who was exceedingly proud to be an American citizen. He worked hard and never expected a hand-out. When the Great Depression hit, he refused to go on the relief program, but sold lamps door-to-door while Grandma worked in a sewing factory.
Macy's July 4th by Alex Andrei
In my family, any occasion was reason for a celebration. And the 4th of July....America's Birthday was no exception. Much had to do with the gratefulness my grandparents felt for the opportunities America afforded them. They lived in the most prosperous nation in the world with God in our Pledge, National Anthem, founding documents and their home. Grandpa Frank was a proud husband, a proud father and grandfather and proud of the day he placed his hand over his heart and betrothed himself to Old Glory.
On Independence Day, Roman candles brightened the evening sky as the children twirled sparklers on the sidewalks. Nonna and neighbors gathered on their front porches and waved small American flags reminders of the democracy, equality and freedom they cherished. Italy's flag was no where to be seen....only the Stars & Stripes. To fit in, my ancestors learned English as quickly as they could. In broken English they sang the Star-Spangled Banner and God Bless America and I wondered what it would have sounded like sung in Italian. Among themselves, the adult spoke their mother tongue. It was a familiar sound when the men played pinochle or the women cooked side by side in the kitchen but it was never spoken to the children either by the family elders or my parents.  Years later, I found out why, though I regret that we weren't taught that beautiful musical language.
At the outbreak of WWII, Italian was considered the language of the enemy! 1942 America-- over 1,500 Italian immigrants were arrested by the FBI, many for curfew violations, and some interned in military camps for up to two years. Over 600,000 Italian Americans would be branded "enemy aliens"-- possible fascists, loyal to Benito Mussolini. The result of this prejudice was devastating, so many in this generation did not teach their children Italian. It wasn't passed down to me or my siblings. What a shame. Una Storia Segreta (a secret story)
 But on those 4th of Julys celebrated in the Bronx (NY), I was unaware of the "secret story", I was only aware that when the last firecracker exploded in the streets it was time to gather with loved ones in my Nonni's basement kitchen. The long table groaned under the weight of sesame seed studded heros filled with salami, mortadella, ham, provolone & roasted red peppers. Beside dark pans of lasagna were bowls of fried meatballs, platters of eggplant parmigiana, huge green salad dressed with the finest olive oil, balsamic vinegar, kalamata olives and chunks of Gorgonzola, stuffed artichokes and steamed broccoli. There was always meat- maybe a beef or pork roast, roasted chicken or braciole (stuffed & rolled flank steak).
Not only did my ancestors try to simulate into American society by learning the customs and language, but the recipes, too. As familiar as pasta and chicken cacciatore were to us, Nonna & Momma enjoyed putting an "American Meal" on the table. Which proves that a good cook can cook anything! Breaded pork chops and creamy mashed potatoes, pot roast with hearty vegetables, classic mac & cheese, even tuna casserole might be on our weekly menu. I much loved the fact that my mom would make Italian meatloaf one week and an American meatloaf another week. Italian was stuffed with mozzarella cheese, slices of hard boiled egg and thinly sliced salami. Ah, but the American meatloaf was stuffed with bacon and cheddar cheese...yum! and topped with more bacon and slathered with ketchup mixed with ...well, I'll stop here. Read my recipe and see what makes my family's American Meatloaf so very special...just like the country it's named after and loved by my wonderful Italian ancestors.

American Meatloaf

1 1/4-1 1/2 lb ground beef/pork combo
2 teaspoons dry onion soup mix
1 egg
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
6 slices of bacon, cooked but not crisp
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1 Tablespoon brown sugar (scant)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
 splash of milk

Pre-heat oven 350 degrees.
In a bowl mix ground meat with egg, onion soup mix, parsley and milk. Mix until blended, but don't handle meat too much or it will get tough. In a separate small bowl mix together ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Mix until smooth. Put meat on a sheet of wax paper and flatten it out. Put cheese in center of flattened meat and top with 3 slices of bacon. Bring sides up and to the center, then bring both ends up and to the center until filling is covered. Shape into a loaf. Place in baking pan. Make an indentation down the middle of the loaf. Pour most of the ketchup mixture into well and spread over meatloaf including the sides. Place bacon on top and drizzle the remaining "sauce" over the top. Bake for 45 minutes. Cool just a bit and slice.
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  1. Thank you so much for your kind words and your interest in my blog. Come back soon. N

  2. Loved the post. Great recipe! Thanks. P

  3. Wonderful story about your grandfather and family traditions!

    I've heard similar stories re: families "blending in". On a trip to Israel, I met the grandson of holocaust survivors who escaped to Argentina - to protect their children, they never told their grandson that they are Jewish in fear that the worst would happen again. He subsequently began researching and discovering his heritage.

    All the best!

  4. Dan: What a great story you've shared. How rich our lives are because of our ancestors! I taught a class to seniors on Memoir writing. What a wonderful experience. It brought tears and laughter. Do come back and visit again..thanks so much for your comment. Oh, I enjoyed visiting your blog! N