Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Meatloaf and unschooling

Although one of the things I love about cooking is the way it connects up with everything else in life, on my blog I've tried to keep my main focus on food. However, sometimes other things shoulder their way in and demand my attention.

 For those of you who don't know, apart from cooking and working as a freelance translator, I also (together with my partner Gemma) home educate my kids. But 'home educate' is not really the right phrase. We don't do lessons, or curriculum planning or any of that kind of stuff. What we do is generally referred to as 'unschooling', and the core belief is that if you treat kids with respect, give them freedom, respond to their natural curiosity, and share your own curiosity and enthusiasms with them, then they will learn and be happy. No need for school, lessons, textbooks, curriculums, exams or any of the rest of it. This doesn't just apply to the educational side of things. (How absurd, anyway, to suggest that education and learning should or even can be separated off from the rest of life!) It also means giving your children as much freedom as you possibly can to decide what they do and when they do it. (And, yes, that does extend to allowing them to decide when they go to bed.)

One of the many things that strikes me as so wrong about school is that learning is packaged up into units or courses or years and that you can't follow your interests or curiosity. A small example. Carmela's best friend is Kaya, who is Danish-American. The fact of her being half-Danish sparked an interest in Vikings (expressed through dressing up as Vikings and asking what Viking houses were like). If Carmela had been at school, she would just have to have hoped that her interest in Vikings coincided with Vikings being on the menu that term (or rather, that week). And that the teacher or syllabus designer had decided to include the things that she was actually interested in. And then allowed her to stop when she didn't want to do any more.

Another problem with organized, formal learning is that you can't pursue tangents (or at least not very far). Well, this recipe came at the end of a long tangent that started with "Bat out of hell" and ended (a few days later) with me and Sammy cooking meatloaf in the kitchen. The original recipe can be found here, although we did a bit of kitchen improvization and also jazzed it up a little. (Rather mysteriously, the version on the BBC Good Food blog prescriptively requires "a 500g pack of minced pork". Does the pork have to be in a pack? And can you use half of a 1kg pack or 2 x 250g packs?)

Ingredients (enough for two meatloafs)
1 kg minced pork
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
large handful of parsley
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
2 eggs
200g fresh white breadcrumbs (remove the crusts from the bread and whizz in a food processor)
1 tsp salt
streaky bacon (enough to line two loaf tins, plus 4 extra rashers)
spices (see step 4 below)

  1. Set your oven to 180oC.
  2. Peel, finely chop and fry the onion and garlic.
  3. Put the pork, herbs, egg, breadcrumbs and salt in a large bowl, together with the fried onion and garlic, and 4 rashers of finely chopped streaky bacon. (As I'm in Spain at the moment, I substituted chicharrones especiales for the bacon, which is a bit like a Spanish version of finely sliced pancetta.)
  4. At this point I divided the mixture into two. I put 2 teaspoons of paprika into one of the portions, and Sammy put 1 tsp of garam masala and 1 tsp of chilli powder into the other one.
  5. Line two loaf tins with the bacon, and fill each with the mixture.
  6. Place the loaf tins in a large, high-sided baking tray, fill with boiling water until it comes about halfway up the tins, and bake for 50 minutes.
  7. Remove tray from oven and allow the loaves to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so. Pour off any excess liquid and turn out onto a plate.
A final thought
Whenever I hear the phrase, "you took the words right out of my mouth", I can't help thinking of the next line in the Meatloaf song: "it must have been while you were kissing me". And this in turn always sparks the rather unappetising question: was Meatloaf actually eating some meatloaf at the time? I guess not, because otherwise the song would be "you took the mince right out of my mouth". No half-chewed mince visible here, thankfully.


En casa said...

What's this "bat out of hell"? I didn't follow this, just ate the meatloaf. Yum-yum!!

Tim in the Kitchen said...

THIS is bat out of hell: