Playing twenty questions with the kids always starts the same and then changes, like confession or saying grace, but instead of “Bless me, Father” or “Bless us, O Lord,” it’s the question, “Is it animal, vegetable, or mineral?” Meatloaf is like that. Ask me how to make a meatloaf. Go ahead, ask me! I could reply, “Animal, vegetable, mineral.” Really! Think about it. Infinite variations on a theme, but they all start with ground meat, some sort of grain or starchy vegetable, and salt. Meat, starch, salt. From region to region, family to family, the traditions change, but always as absolute as prayer. “It isn’t meatloaf without ketchup,” “without spaghetti sauce,” “without salsa,” “without chili,” without whatever savory spice makes that heart say Home. Meatloaf comes from the poor, but not so poor there is no meat, just not much and not the best. The meat is whatever the deity has provided, what is easy to use and easy to find, ground fine to use bits that aren’t most wanted, and stretched out to make it fill many mouths. Beef, pork, sausage, turkey, chicken, lamb, in some places fish or eggs, or even beans (the vegetable meat). Bean loaf? Yes, bean loaf. Every evening, somewhere, someone is making meatloaf of one sort or another, as if it is a fundamental human act. Just change the names and shapes. Meatloaf, bean loaf, tuna loaf, spaghetti loaf; meatloaf wrapped instead of square — pasties, kibbeh, kubbeh, dolmas; who knows? Maybe even sushi is meatloaf. Meat, starch, salt. Cook kibbeh in a pie, in a loaf, in a leaf, in a crust, in cabbage. What is a quiche but a flat round cheese & egg loaf? Where are the boundaries of the transcendental quintessential Meatloaf? Does meatloaf even need boundaries? Begin with bread, rice, potatoes, noodles, tortillas, bulgar, burghul, couscous, quinoa, lentils, whatever is to hand. Layer beans and tabbouleh and brine. Meat, starch, salt. Whatever is spare, and there. Be humble. Let the food be humble. Bury your hands in the mix. Meat, starch, salt. Touch it. Play with it. Cook it, share it. Let the meatloaf be our meal. Let the making of meatloaf be our prayer.