Posted by Bruce Miller
About 15 years ago I was privileged to direct Terrence McNally’s lovely two-hander Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune in the Little Theatre at Theatre IV. It starred Irene Ziegler and John Moon, and boy were they great.
People remember it as a Theatre Gym production, but it wasn’t. It was back in the days when Theatre IV staged full fledged adult seasons of its own in the Little Theatre. Frankie and Johnny was a part of these seasons, as were our productions remembered with equal fondness: Crimes of the Heart, A Shayna Maidel, our first Shirley Valentine, Gary Hopper's Hamlet, and Stand Up Tragedy.
One of the many fun aspects of Frankie and Johnny is the cooking that happens onstage. Just as in Shirley Valentine, every night the actress playing Frankie makes a Western omelet, and the actor playing Johnny makes a meatloaf sandwich. One of my jobs was to make the meatloaf that emerged each night from the fridge and was sliced for the sandwich and devoured on-stage.
I relied on the old tried and true meatloaf recipe that my dad gave me when I went off to college. It’s quick and easy to make, it’s relatively cheap, it freezes well so you can make a large batch and save some for later, and it tastes wonderful.
Roy Proctor apparently had a Pavlovian response while watching John Moon slice the meatloaf, slather it with ketchup, slap it between two slabs of bread, and then slowly slide it down his gullet. With saliva flowing, Roy asked me for the recipe. He later ran it in the T-D using the name my father gave the entree when he first presented me with the recipe card. My father had passed several years earlier, so I let the slightly embarrassing name stand in his memory.
Miller’s Mighty Meatloaf
2.25 lbs ground beef—as lean as you can get
4 slices whole-grain bread
1 large sweet onion, minced
1 green pepper, minced
2 medium carrots, minced
2 stalks celery, minced
½ cup 2% milk
1 can condensed tomato soup
2 tsp salt
½ tsp oregano or Italian Seasoning
¼ tsp pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
Cube the bread slices (the older the bread the better) and dry them for about 10 minutes in a warm oven (100°). Mince the onion, pepper, carrots and celery. Remove the bread and preheat the oven to 350°. Crush the dried bread cubes into crumbs. Mince the cloves of garlic. In a medium-large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and kneed them until they are thoroughly mixed. Lightly coat the interiors of two 5” x 9” glass loaf pans with vegetable oil spray. Press the mixed ingredients into the two pans. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Insert a knife between the sides of each loaf and the pan. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Remove each loaf using two pancake turners, and place the loaves on paper towels to drain. Each loaf serves 4 hearty appetites, and can be cut in half and frozen if desired.
Now that times are lean again and Barksdale is facing some significant recession-driven cutbacks (including my salary), I pulled out the old recipe card today and whipped up a pair of meatloaves for the two omnivores in my family. At least it made me feel like I was being proactive. We're eating half a loaf tonight and freezing the other three halves for later. At a cost of about $1.25 per hearty serving, it’s still a great deal.
And now when I cook it and eat it, I remember not only my dad but also that delicious production of Frankie and Johnny. Meatloaf by the light of the moon. What could be better?