If it seems like a stretch to call a meatloaf French, I hope you’ll permit the reach. Fennel and apple seem like a dignified way to class up this ’50s housewife favorite, and did I mention the gruyère? That practically makes it bona fide.
I’ve had two meatloaf recipes in life that were worth repeating. This one, and one that seemed a little Continental with its inclusion of prunes. (Am I saying that a recipe is “French” if it’s got that savory-with-fruit thing going on? Who knows.) I was introduced to that recipe where I get a lot of my good food ideas: book club.
Which brings me, tangentially, to the pleasures of belonging to a social club. Are you guys in book clubs? Are there women you meet for tea and knitting, to talk about wine, to practice yoga together, or to swap mixtapes? It doesn’t really matter what the impetus is that brings you together (though a shared interest certainly leads to sustained enthusiasm when the meeting falls on a cold, rainy night in February). What matters is the idea incubator and mutual support that happens when you’re together. We talk about the book or cast on our stitches and then the real meeting comes to order: someone needs to talk about job hunting, getting over a broken heart, how to redo the kitchen, or just inexplicably having a bad case of the blues. Not to get all red tent, ’70s consciousness-raising on you, but something powerful happens when women come together like this.
My college experience had an idea-incubator quality to it among my female friends that made me hunger for the same experience in the real world. It turns out, though, that grown-up life isn’t naturally set up to foster this kind of togetherness. We all live separately, cordoned off in our own snug little homes, working away in our individual cubicle corrals, sweating silently side-by-side on the treadmills at the gym. Yet that sense of connecting, of being understood, of belonging to a group that likes each other and spends time together because they elect to––not because they’re receiving a paycheck at week’s end or share the same DNA––that experience can bring so much meaning to the day-in, day-out experience of waking up, punching in, and slogging through. A sense of community can sustain us through so much.
I spent the days leading up to New Year’s Eve in a white farmhouse in Wisconsin. There were eight of us, and three people cooked side by side in the kitchen, passing behind each other, crossing arms to reach pots on the stove, compromising on oven temperatures. Then we would sit down at the long table, folded paper towels under our knives, wine in Anchor Hocking teacups, and eat. I realized then, just clear as day, that one of my greatest pleasures in life is sitting down to a meal at a table filled with people.
“This is just what it would feel like to be in a really big family,” someone––maybe me––said. “Yeah,” came the expected quip, “except we would all hate each other.”
This is all to say: I hope you find a spot of community this weekend, whether elected or familial, and share a meal together. Maybe even this meatloaf.
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