Smoked Meatloaf and Recipe for a Perfect Wife for Cook the Books

Welcome to the August/September round for Cook the Books.  I am hosting Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown.    You can read the announcement post here.  

Can a lie ever be benign?

What if one has to deceive to survive?

What if one just lies out of habit?

These are questions that run through alternating POVs in the novel—one of a 1950s housewife and one of a modern wife.

Nellie is the mid-century wife that strives for the perfect garden, house, and meals. Her sole job seems to be making her husband happy. (And, maintaining the facade of a perfect spouse in an ideal marriage.)

Alice is the modern woman transplanted from NYC to suburbia. She is unhappy about the move, unhappy about the house, unhappy about her state of employment and unhappy about certain “demands” or expectations of her husband.

What do these two have in common besides the aforementioned questions (and lies)?

Nellie’s house is now Alice’s.

As Alice finds clues about Nellie in vintage magazines, cookbooks and letters, she immerses herself into Nellie’s life as research for a proposed novel. She smokes with a cigarette holder, rag rolls her hair, cooks retro recipes, and starts shopping for vintage clothing.

While Nellie’s deceptions are survival tactics, Alice’s dishonesty is harder to rationalize. I enjoyed Brown’s technique of weaving similarities between these two different women.  And, I sympathized with Nellie.  I can’t imagine that existence and what drove her to some of her choices.  I was caught up in her tale.

With Alice…that’s another story.  I think if one were to ask Alice about her dishonesty, she would not be able to rationalize why she tells the tales she does.  Some of her lies and deceptions make no sense and are even more evil than anything Nellie did (in the name of survival).  It was very hard to like Alice at all.

Many of Nellie’s chapters begin with vintage recipes and totally dated and misogynistic quotes about housewifery.   There’s recipes for the classics like meatloaf, chocolate chip cookies and even fancy Baked Alaska.  (The cookie recipe sounded amazing, using clove and coconut in the recipe.  I tried the recipe on page 35 and the taste was fantastic; however, the cookies fell flat and spread all over the cookie sheet.  I did not have time to experiment with them but rest assured, I will be trying them again to try to perfect.)

I often seek out new recipes and very rarely revisit family favorites.   For this post, I decided to pull out two family cookbooks to see if I could find a retro meatloaf recipe.

I found this recipe in the compilation from my maternal grandmother’s stacks of recipes.


From the family cookbook, This Old House

There’s no hednotes in our family cookbook and most recipes are run together in a long paragraph in the old style.  I revamped the instructions here (and added BBQ sauce).


  • 2 slices of bread, broken into small pieces (I used 1 cup of leftover homemade sourdough bread crumbs.)
  • 1/3 c. milk (I used Milnot because that is what my grandmother would have done.)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 t. salt (and pepper to taste)
  • 1/2 c. grated cheese (I used Colby-Jack.)
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • BBQ sauce (optional)


  1. In a bowl, break up the bread and add the milk. Let stand for a few minutes.
  2. Add the eggs, salt, cheese, beef and onions. Mix together.
  3. Place in an oblong baking pan.  Add BBQ sauce if desired.
  4. Bake at 375 F for one hour. When done, meatloaf will shrink from the sides of the pan and be nicely browned.

Yield: 6

Instead of just baking this, we decided we would smoke it.  Here’s the process.

  • Start up your smoker (or ceramic cooker) to  250 F.
  • Soak whatever kind of wood you prefer. (I used apple wood.)
  • Place meatloaf in a disposable tin pan.
  • Place in cooker once the smoker reaches 250 F.
  • At this step, you can brush the meatloaf with a BBQ sauce.  Smoke for two hours or until the internal temperature is at 160 F.

I have to say with this simple meatloaf recipe (just meat, cheese and onions), I loved that we smoked it.  The process added a lot of flavor.  I did use a bit of a curry BBQ sauce on top.   This is a homey recipe that I doubt Nellie would have attempted because of all the stomach issues and the finicky husband in her house.  I am sure the smoke flavor would not have been looked upon kindly.

Simple meal of smoked meatloaf, smoked baked potatoes, and garden-fresh tomatoes.

Around here, however, we will certainly make this again (and again)!  It was a great dinner!  I plan to experiment by adding maybe blue cheese and a few walnuts, or adding some jalapenos with the colby-jack cheese and topping with salsa.  The possibilities are endless…

If Recipe for a Perfect Wife sounds interesting to you, there’s still time to participate in this round of Cook the Books.   For more information, click here.  The deadline for posting is September 30, 2020.


Please join Cook the Books for October/November when Simona (briciole) is hosting The Secret Book and Scone Society by Ellery Adams.   It’s almost time to pick the next four rounds of books.

Have you read anything lately that would be a good selection for Cook the Books?  If so, please leave a comment here.

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