Most people consider meatloaf a bad memory from their childhood, served by parents on a school night and something they tried desperately to avoid, but reluctantly ate because they wanted to play with their friends. Lucky for us, meatloaf doesn’t have to be a boring hunk of meat on a plate anymore thanks to local cookbook author Carol Falkowski who has found a fun way to prepare meatloaf so your family will clamor instead of cringe.
Falkowski’s earliest memories of meatloaf go back to when she was a kid. Her mother’s meatloaf stands out in her mind—but not in a positive way. “My mother made horrible meatloaf,” Falkowski says. “When she made it, it was dried out, and she would put ketchup on it; it was baked too much.” So, suffice to say, this was a factor in what led her to invest so much of her time into meatloaf. “Perhaps I’m just overcompensating,” Falkowski says.
Over the years—and with a desire to eliminate those memories of incinerated meat—Falkowski began making meatloaf more often and decided to spruce it up a bit. “I was making a meatloaf around the holidays in the shape of a wreath and I thought, well, I’ll put some beans in. And then I thought, I’ll put some red sauce on top and, boom, the rest is history,” Falkowski says. That was the beginning of her journey with meatloaf.
Falkowski made meatloaf after meatloaf and created tons of festive designs. She made her meatloaf in the shape of a school bus, a watermelon, a turkey. And that got her meatloaf-loving imagination kicked into high gear. She created a pumpkin, a dog and a perfectly shaped ear of corn, because, why not? Falkowski gets her inspiration from her real-world experiences and what she surrounds herself with. “I have family that lives in Missouri, so we’re always driving through Iowa. And what’s in Iowa? Corn. And I just thought, that would be a great meatloaf,” Falkowski says.
Her favorite is the tropical fish she created using carrots and summer squash. “I think the fish is great creative height,” Falkowski says. “But the lobster is really different. My sushi meatloaf is different. The lump of grapes are so easy to make but, boy, do they look spectacular for having people over for dinner.”
Outside the Pan
All of this meatloaf love got Falkowski thinking maybe other folks might like to create new meatloaf memories. A little spark went off, and she decided to create a cookbook and share her designs with the world. “It took about three years to put the cookbook together,” Falkowski says. “It was published about a year ago. And I thought the cookbook might be the end of it, but it’s just been the beginning.” The cookbook—Meatloaf Outside the Pan—shows readers how to create these fun designs through steps similar to creating a cake. “You make it in the shape in a single layer cake and then bake it,” Falkowski says. “Take it out of the oven and use mashed potatoes as its frosting and put on vegetables as sprinkles and, boom; it looks festive and colorful.”
Meatloaf and the Media
Falkowski’s passion for meatloaf, along with her unique designs, has taken social media by storm. She posts her creations on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and caught the eye of Rachael Ray. “[Folks from the show] contacted me and asked me if I would be interested [in appearing] because they really liked the meatloaf,” Falkowski says. “So they called and I talked with [Ray] live on the phone. And she showed some of my meatloaves.” The show aired on October 13, 2017.
For Falkowski, her main message is meatloaf doesn’t have to be boring. “It’s such a popular food, and with just a little bit more effort, it can look spectacular,” Falkowski says. “So it was really the challenge of turning the ordinary and lackluster into something extraordinary. I figured it was time to make meatloaf look as good as it tastes.” She also emphasizes how easy it is to make the meatloaf look extraordinary. “One of the things I try to emphasize in the cookbook is that this is something most people can do,” Falkowski says. “With just a little bit more effort, you can bring meatloaf and vegetables together. They’re always served together. Why not just bring them together sooner?”
The future is unclear to Falkowski right now. She knows meatloaf will continue to be in it, but she’s not sure how, yet. “I have some friends that said I should take it into the art world. I don’t really know. I am open to possibilities,” Falkowski says. “I don’t know what the next chapter brings, but I am still broadening my horizons with meatloaf and trying to change the world one dinner table at a time.”
Head to outsidethepan.com to learn more about Falkowski, her love of meatloaf and to order a cookbook.