Meatloaf: A Revisionist History

Foodies_Cadillac Ranch

There’s a famous art installation in Amarillo, Texas called the Cadillac Ranch, where a line of classic wing-tipped, fin-tailed Cadillacs are half-buried, nose first in the stark dirt. 

I’ve always loved the striking visual—decadent post-WWII luxury roadsters arranged in a line of 10, as if they had hit the earth from outer space doing well over the enforced speed limit. For me, conceptual art is usually the least approachable media to communicate an idea. But the Cadillac Ranch has always spoken to American consumerism and the earnestness that defines a young, energetic, creative, disposable society.  

Recently a friend returned from a road trip out West, and he shared photos of the 43-year-old installation. The ranch was relocated many years ago, and the cars are now covered with graffiti. In my view, this was akin to revisionist history and unsettling. It was confusing, as I feel art and culture define us and should be protected. In that sense, the art was sacred to me, and as a result, I’ve had to rethink that aspect of art, evolution and history. 

Recently, my wife and I delivered cherished, old-school photographic images for a gallery showing of multiple artists’ work. I looked at all the new techniques other artists offered that were meant to dazzle the viewer with color and energy. 

Somehow, it brought to mind the Cadillac Ranch. A clearer understanding about the nature of things came into focus. Some things are meant to live forever, some constantly change and yet everything is connected in some way. Where those evolutionary lines are drawn is up to the individual. If you don’t like it or are unwilling to accept inevitable change, it might be best to stay in bed.  

There is a relationship between the classics and reinvention, between art and food. Whether it’s tomato sauce (the red gravy your mama made) and marinara, or the explosion of versions of macaroni and cheese, classic dishes can be reinvented while retaining vestiges of the original. 

In testament to that theory, I am offering a version of an American classic that I have tinkered with my entire life and am confident that my investigatory work is now complete. This meatloaf, while similar to original recipes, has layers of added flavor that make it the best I’ve ever tasted.  Well wrapped, it freezes extremely well for a long period, making it easy to have a home-cooked meal any time. See my recipe for “Throw Away Your Other Meatloaf Recipe” Recipe.

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