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Diner recipes offer the nostalgia of Americana

| Sunday, March 23, 2003

There was a time when anything old was considered inferior, unpopular and generally out of style.

Today, retro is in vogue. People drive cars such as the Chrysler PT Cruiser, which hearkens back to the early days of the automotive industry. We see bell-bottoms and hip huggers a la 1970.

And it's trendy to eat in restaurants that mimic the gleaming stainless-steel diners of the '50s and '60s.

Linda Everett serves a heapin' helping of nostalgia with "Retro Diner: Comfort Food From the American Roadside." The 128-page hardcover cookbook features more than 115 recipes from diners across the country. Its pages are decorated with brightly colored art, advertising and memorabilia from a half-century ago.

Recipes run the gamut of typical lunch-counter fare and are divided into chapters such as "Rise N' Shine" and "Blue Plate Specials." A handy index in the back of the book lists each recipe by main ingredient, such as beef, eggs and bread.

Recipes are easy to follow but fail to provide serving sizes. It also would have been nice to have a few details about the diners where the dishes originated.

"Retro Diner" has no less than 10 recipes for meatloaf -- it's the entree most identified with the American diner. Try the following versions.


Steeltown Meatloaf

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork sausage (regular or sage)
  • 3/4 cup uncooked regular or old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup ketchup, divided
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper, coarsely ground
  • 2 teaspoons prepared mustard
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Combine the beef, sausage, oats, onion, 1/2 cup ketchup, the milk, eggs, 1 tablespoon horseradish, the salt and pepper. Turn into a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Turn onto a heat-proof plate or platter. Retain the oven temperature.

Mix together the mustard, remaining horseradish, remaining ketchup and the brown sugar. Pour this glaze over the meatloaf and return to the oven for 10 minutes.


Big Daddy's Diner Meatloaf

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 (10 1/2-ounce) can undiluted condensed cream of tomato soup
  • 1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup green pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper, coarsely ground
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.

Coat a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with oil or vegetable cooking spray. Turn in the meat mixture. Bake for about 1 hour. Drain off any fat and let sit for 5 minutes.

Remove the loaf from the pan, cut and serve.

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