Away from home, Minj found herself craving one of the comforting recipes from Southern Fried Sass: a meatloaf dish created by her mom. It reminds her of Wednesday night family dinners, and the Thursday afternoon meatloaf sandwich lunches at school that followed.
“Now, whenever the air gets even slightly cold and the world feels darker—not just physically, but metaphorically—I just want something bright. To me, that’s what my mom’s meatloaf is like, it’s bright,” she says. “My childhood was not great, but the good moments were bright for me, and the meatloaf was always a really bright spot. It made me feel warm, it made me feel taken care of.”
That’s why, when she’s not on the road, she still enjoys the meal on a weekly basis. Now, her husband, sister, nephews, and mom—who all share a Florida home—take turns cooking, but her mom’s meatloaf retains its integral spot in the rotation, serving as a flavorful reminder of life’s happy moments. Here’s how Minj and the whole family enjoy the dish to the fullest.
1. Mashed potatoes are a must—for most.
Minj loves living with her family—“I never have time to really get homesick,” she says—but there is one tiny point of contention on meatloaf nights: Her nephews don’t eat mashed potatoes, the classic side dish that always accompanied the meal.
To keep the peace, Minj and her family provide a side of rice for the boys, and classic mashed potatoes and gravy for the grown-ups. Succotash also pairs perfectly with the meatloaf, because, according to Minj, “I’ve always loved lima beans, and you can’t go wrong with corn—it’s sweet and delicious.”
2. Sip on a classic Southern staple along with it.
Side dishes may be negotiable, but the one thing that’s not is the meatloaf’s perfect accompanying beverage. “There’s always a giant jug of sweet tea and it’s always homemade—there’s no such thing as a manufactured sweet tea,” Minj says.
Lots of grocery store versions are either too citrusy or too sweet, Minj says. “The key to a good Southern sweet tea is you shouldn’t be able to really taste the sugar,” she says. “I like one squeeze of lemon in the whole pitcher and just enough sugar in it to take the bitter edge off.”
3. Keep the dinner table a tech-free zone.
Growing up, Minj’s family abided by a strict no-distraction policy at dinnertime that she cherishes to this day. “That was the one time when the radios went off, the TVs went off, and everything else was shut out,” she says. “Even my father, who was not the greatest presence in my life, that was the one time when he was great. We would sit down and talk and share. The whole family would get together, and that’s still what we do today.”
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