(Apologies to the Chronicle for using the photo; I didn't think to photograph my meatloaf. But this is Cindy's as Cindy made it.)
I've written about my copy of my mom's Joy of Cooking (1964 edition). It's not often that this cookbook makes it into the news. But today's New York Times has a short piece on a nutritional study comparing the calorie counts of servings from the original 1936 edition and the 2006 one, with a reference to lean times, both financially and gastronomically. In case you prefer not to click over to the article, the study found that there is an average of 39% more calories per serving in the current edition's recipes, due to more caloric ingredients and larger serving sizes.
I've long noticed the evolution of recipes toward more luxurious ingredients and larger serving sizes in recipes from my own cookbooks. Because I was curious whether my impression was accurate, I compared 4 meatloaf recipes, spanning approximately the same number of years as my lifetime, with an eye on the approximate calories of each (that part is not so scientific).
1964 Joy of Cooking: 1 lb. ground beef, 6 slices of bacon, 1/2 cup of cream (among other less caloric ingredients), to yield 4 servings.
(I haven't actually tried this recipe.)
1989 Silver Palate New Basics Cookbook, "Cajun Meat Loaf": 2 lb. ground beef, 1/2 lb. andouille sausage, etc., to yield 8 servings
(This is very Silver Palate--adding an extra twist to gussy up a classic. It also includes various peppers, cayenne, etc. I find I usually have to delete at least one ingredient, and sometimes several, from every Silver Palate recipe, although I haven't actually tried this recipe, either. I'm not sure I want andouille sausage in my meat loaf but to be fair they also have a recipe for meat loaf without it, although that one also calls for spinach, carrots and cumin. Uck.)
Undated, probably from the 1990s, SF Chronicle meat loaf: 2 lbs. ground beef, no bacon or sausage or cream, to yield 8 servings.
(This is the slightly boring recipe I usually make--so far the leanest.)
2009 "Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen Mighty Meat Loaf" from last week's SF Chronicle: 2 lbs. ground beef, no sausage or bacon, to yield 4-6 servings.
("Cindy" as in Cindy Pawlcyn. I just tried this one last week, but we got more like 8 servings out of it, even with 2 teenage boys eating. Serving size on this one is way bigger than the others. This recipe is a lot more interesting than my usual, with more ketchup, more herbs, more minced vegetables, and even more ketchup in a spicy sauce with horseradish poured on top as a gravy. It was a big hit. I was told, in firm tones, that this beat my usual meatloaf. In fact, here it is, along with 3 other meat loaf recipes from the Chronicle's meat loaf extravaganza, if you want to try it).
Hmmm. Maybe meatloaf wasn't the best choice for my unscientific study, since the first two seem to be more or less equivalent, and only Cindy's showed a big jump in calories. Cindy's meatloaf was adapted from a restaurant recipe, which tend to be more caloric and luxurious. Also, after an era of food excess, even a comfort food associated with frugality has to feel plentiful, hence the excessive serving size. Well, it is exceptionally good meatloaf.