I must have been the last to arrive with my contestant. I saw three other loaves sitting side by side on the counter. One had a beautiful deep ruby red sauce coating the top, one looked as though there were veggies mixed in with the ground meat, and the last one was a free form masterpiece. Sarah looked a little nervous but gladly took my sample. I had purchased a new pan, and told Sarah that it was hers to keep for participating in our crazy contest. I asked Sarah if she had told her family about the plans for dinner. She told me that the kids were actually making judging forms and that Roger hadn’t said much after she let him know what was going to happen. I offered a “good luck” and left.
I kept thinking that perhaps I would hear something that night about the outcome, but we hadn’t really discussed when Sarah would share the results with us. I felt inspired and made a big dinner with chili and homemade cornbread. Steve enjoyed the meal, gave me a sweet kiss on the cheek and the kids ran off to take baths. When we were laying in bed, I told him about the contest. He chuckled at the thought that we had actually made a contest out of meatloaf. Maybe it was a mundane topic, but a staple in our dinner repertoires. I wondered how I would feel if I felt that I had to prepare dinners for Steve based on versions that he had been fed when he was young. At least I had that freedom intact.
The next morning I got a call from Mags to meet at 10 at Sarah’s house. I asked Mags if she had any news on the results. She seemed delighted to tell me that she had never heard Sarah sound so happy, but didn’t know the results. I walked over to Sarah’s and entered to see everyone already lined up on the davenport with coffee cups in hand. Sarah entered the room looking like sunshine itself. Her smile was as wide as her face. She giggled a little as we fidgeted nervously. “Spit it out,” Mags yelled. Sarah giggled again. She made quite a scene, taking a cup, pouring her coffee, setting it down for the cream and sugar additions, slowly stirring away. She lifted her cup, took a quick sip and gently lowered herself into a chair across from us. This was getting frustrating, but she deserved a chance to create her little drama. “Well,” Sarah said, “it was quite a dinner.” Sarah went on to explain how much fun they had during the contest. The kids acted like judges, describing their favorites, rating each different version, while Roger and Sarah listened and enjoyed the show. Roger got into the action, and actually told everyone how much he hated his mother’s meatloaf. It seems as though he had never liked meatloaf night because it reminded him of being a little boy, having to clean his plate, sit up straight, and make polite conversation. Sarah relaxed after his revelation and swore the children to secrecy never to tell their grandmother about the night. We had all gotten caught up in her delight at having changed meatloaf night into meatloaf delight. Gail finally asked her which version won the contest. Another “well” was followed by the explanation that they all won. Everyone loved the red sauce, the free form, the semi-soft veggies tucked into meat, and my version of Mom’s Meatloaf with the invisibly grated onion. Sarah said that she was going to finally make her own version based on all of them! We clapped for her joy and poured more coffee. Who knew meatloaf could be so much fun?