Kitchen Dragon: Meatloaf Before Elvis

Kitchen Dragon: Meatloaf Before Elvis

IMG_3025I saw Elvis Costello, the English singer-songwriter, when he recently performed here in Burlington, Vermont. I admire his evolution from his days playing with The Attractions,  collaboration with Burt Bacharach, and his music interview tv show called Spectacle.  Without sounding like a starstruck groupie, I have a personal connection to one of his song “Shipbuilding.”


Hot and sticky Florida was where I was spending my first summer having just moved back from China. My son was more than a year old and still on a routine of eating, playing and napping. Most of his routine revolved around the heat of the day.  Just around 4:00 pm when the sun tipped west there was a slight, but noticeable change in temperature and heat. Getting my year-old son to take his afternoon nap at this time was a chore. I tried walking him in the stroller, strapping him into a bouncy chair, one of those swinging chairs, and even blasting white noise. While running errands one afternoon, Costello’s “Shipbuilding” came on.  The haunting slow pace of  the song and the vibration of the car lulled my son to sleep. And this became an essential part of our afternoon ritual.

Some days he’d fall asleep at the first  chords and other times, I’d play the song six or seven times before his head drooped. Enclosed in a capsule reverberating with piano and trumpet chords  and the soft hum of the AC, I drove slowing through our neighborhood. Gazing back at my son in the rear view mirror, I watched him staring out the window transfixed by  the tropical landscape, manicured lawns and the palm trees swaying against a coral, blue, purple, and yellow smeared sky.

I began to look forward to these daily drives. I hadn’t caught up on my sleep since he was born and the slow drive’; hypnotic, repetitive music, and cool, contained setting was like resting without sleeping. I had the luxury of drifting through free flowing, uninterrupted thoughts. I thought about all kinds of things. Like piece of fluff carried by the wind,  I thought about my new life as a mother, where my relationship went wrong, the manuscript I was writing, and what it would feel like to keep driving and never stop.

My afternoon drives took place for weeks or maybe it was for months. Florida’s constant sunny weather has a way of distorting time and creating a sense that life is standing still. Absorbed in my own thoughts there were afternoons where  I’d keep driving and listening to “Shipbuilding” long after my son had fallen asleep. I’d awaken from my conscious reverie as my son woke from his slumber.

My son is ten now and days before attending the Costello performance we listen to “Shipbuilding” together.  I was curious to see if the song triggers any memory of that hazy summer in Florida. Head tilted towards the sound of the music, my son listened intently, then shook his head.  I, on the other hand, became spellbound.  At the first strikes of the piano chords, I was transported back to that car to that scattered time in my life. I heard the hum of the AC, smelled the car’s smoky leather upholstery, saw the blinding sunshine and felt a familiar heavy fatigue.  For a moment before the sensory connection breaks, I remember the person I was eight years ago, the uncertain and  exhausted, but optimistic new mother doing whatever she can to make it through another day.


Recipe: Meatloaf

Nostalgia makes me hungry for comfort food. Here is my adaptation of a savory meatloaf from the test kitchen at Kikkoman. My version uses local ground chuck, farm fresh eggs, and onions. I like to serve my meatloaf drizzled with ketchup.


2 lbs. ground beef

2 cups panko crumbs

2/3 cup + 2 tablespoon Katsu sauce

1 tablespoon ketchup

1 small onion, chopped

2 green onion, chopped

2 eggs

Heat oven to 375 degree Farenheit. Combine ground beef, panko, 2/3 cup of katsu sauce, and eggs Shape into a loaf and place in a 9-inch loaf pan. In a small bowl mix the katsu and ketchup. Set aside. Bake for 50 minutes, then spread the katsu-ketchup mixture on top of the loaf. Cook for an additional ten minutes. Allow to cool for about five minutes before serving. Makes 6-8 servings

One Comment

  • Geoff Adams on Nov 11, 2013 Reply

    This meatloaf rocks – couldn’t get enough.

Leave Reply