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Carol Egbert: Memories of Meatloaf, But Not Dutch Soup

Snow isn’t as intriguing as it was in December. Wood fires are cozy, but wood ashes are tedious. It’s comfort food season in my house.

When I think about comfort food, I think about my friend Julian. I was 24 when I met her. She was an enthusiastic artist from Holland who bragged about all things Dutch. She insisted that Dutch Soup was the best comfort food ever. I was intrigued, since I had never been to Europe, I was living on my own, in my first apartment, hoping to become a sophisticated cook able to make elegant food. She talked about and promised Dutch Soup at every opportunity.

When she finally invited me to dinner, I was shocked. Rather than serving Dutch Soup, she served meatloaf — Meatloaf! She called it Dutch Meatloaf — but it was meatloaf. It was filled with lots of vegetables and unexpected spice. Although it wasn’t the international delicacy I was hoping for, it was delicious. She shared her recipe and promised that one day she would make Dutch Soup for me.

I used Julian’s recipe last Saturday as the centerpiece of a cozy, traditional American supper for two. This recipe makes two meatloaves. (Having a second one in the freezer adds to the comfort level in my kitchen.) Here’s how I did it:

Meatloaf a la Julian

1 pound ground beef, (I used ground chuck)

1 pound ground turkey

1/2 cup coarsely grated carrots

1 clove garlic, minced

1 large onion, diced

1 medium red pepper, diced

1 medium green pepper, diced

1/2 cup loosely packed chopped parsley

1 1/2 cups bread crumbs

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 Tablespoon dried dill leaves

1 beef bouillon cube

1/2 cup hot water

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dried ginger

1 Tablespoon grainy mustard

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

I put the ground beef and ground turkey in a large mixing bowl and added the grated carrot, garlic, onion, red pepper, green pepper, parsley, bread crumbs, thyme and dill. I put the bouillon cube and the hot water in a small bowl. When the bouillon dissolved, I added the Worcestershire sauce, ginger, mustard, egg, salt and pepper to the mixture. I used my hands to combine the meat, vegetables and seasonings and the bouillon mixture. I formed the mixture into two loaves, wrapped one in foil and put it into the freezer to be cooked another day, and put the other loaf on a rack in a shallow pan.

I baked the meat loaf in an oven that had been preheated to 350 F. To be certain the turkey was cooked, I used an instant read thermometer. It took 50 minutes to bake to an internal temperature of 160 F. I cut the meatloaf into thick slices after it rested under a tent of foil for 10 minutes. The high proportion of vegetables in this recipe makes slicing a challenge. Although each serving was more a pile than a slice, Charles and I enjoyed a comforting supper while we watched my favorite I Love Lucy re-run, (the one where Lucy and Ethel get jobs in a chocolate factory).

Julian was a creative and energetic artist and cook. Her pantry was her palette and each meatloaf was an original. It might be an all-beef meatloaf, or it might include sausage, ground veal, pork or chicken. Day-old bread, crushed crackers or rolled oats might be substituted for breadcrumbs. Once she added grated raw potatoes instead of carrots to the mix, and occasionally she slathered the meatloaf with that classic Dutch condiment, Heinz catsup.

I realized that, at least to Julian, everything that was labeled Heinz was Dutch when months after the meatloaf party she invited a group of friends to dinner for Dutch Soup. When we arrived, she opened a couple of bottles of wine, not Dutch, and set out some cheese, Dutch, and crackers, origin unknown, and disappeared into her kitchen. She insisted on privacy in the kitchen while she cooked. Fifteen minutes later, we were called to the table. She proudly served a thick, brownish-greenish-red and lumpy mixture. It was steamy hot and tasted terrible. After I managed to swallow a few spoonfuls, I politely asked if she would share the recipe. She was delighted to be asked and generously explained how to make this Dutch classic.

I’ll share her recipe with you, but only if you promise not to invite me to dinner when you make it or tell anyone where you got the recipe.

Here’s how she made it: Into a large pot, (it need not be a Dutch oven), dump one can of Heinz Tomato soup, one can of Heinz Split Pea soup, one can of milk, half a can of water, half a can of dry sherry, two cans of cocktail sausages and one large can of vegetables — peas, corn or tomatoes will do. Heat until steaming, serve and try to figure out why she called it Dutch Soup. I’ve never made it or figured out why she called it Dutch soup, but I have wondered — would it be Scottish Soup if made with Campbell’s Soup?

Carol Egbert lives in Quechee, where she paints and cooks. Her food blog can be found at www.carolegbert.com.