Meat loaf does not fit into any normal food category. I have listed it under beef merely for the sake of convenience. If we go by the name, the only item of food that it is sure to contain is meat. As to what kind of meat? It might be anything from the traditional hamburger to venison to lamb to pork to ground chicken to rabbit or any mixture thereof.
If the word "meat" is a nebulous description then the meaning of "loaf" could be even more variously interpreted. Typically a meat loaf may contain bread crumbs, oatmeal, potato flakes or even sawdust (or something that tastes like sawdust). I do not recommend the latter ingredient as it is likely to cause splinters.
As for spices, vegetables, etc. Well, the universe is a very large place. When you read the recipe realize that nearly any ingredient can be substituted or added as long as the basics are adhered to. That is, there must be meat and it must be in the form of a loaf.
Meat loaf has gathered an unfortunate reputation for being a poor man's entree. It is true that the ingredients of meat loaf are not exorbitantly priced. Yet, I find that the staples of a poor man's diet are often more to my taste and more healthy than foods patronized by the socially conscious.
Because of its variable nature, meat loaf can be made to anyone's taste. If you are partial to caviar and Calamatta olives then feel free to dump them into the mix. They will not only make the loaf more interesting, they will boost the relative cost of a dish to a realm more palatable to a person with expensive tastes. If you should attempt this, though, it might be wise to change the name of the dish to something that sounds a bit more highbrow, for example, "pesce ouff bagguette". Any name that sounds remotely French will be sure to impress friends and neighbors.
Like many other dishes that you will find in this book, meat loaf is great as a leftover. I am partial to meat loaf sandwiches, which is nothing more than a few thin slices of meat loaf between two pieces of bread with a little mustard to flavor it. No need to warm it. It is fine cold - better than most lunch meats, in fact.
The following recipe is my standard form of meat loaf. Feel free to dress it up with your own favorite ingredients. As long as they are not ingredients typical to sweet dishes then you probably will find the result tasty. My mother likes to put chopped pickles in meat loaf. It is really quite good.
Here's the Beef:
-Beef Pot Pie
Picking out Beef
-Six Hour Stew
When to Cook Beef
Poor Man's Meat
An Irish Reverie