I thought of it as a place of discovery, Negra and Charro’s house. Both Negra (her real name is Thomasa) and Charro (his real name was Jesus) were close family friends, that treated me as if I were their blood related grand daughter. It was nice for me to adopt some extra grandparents at the tender age of 6. They lived at the very top of the hill overlooking all of City Terrace. The fact that they lived on a hill meant there were plenty of stairs involved. You’d go downstairs to enter the front of the house, but upstairs to enter the back. This is the place were I first ate a fig off a tree. I also discovered if you pour salt on a snail it’ll fizz, thanks to the boys that lived next door. I saw beautiful rainbows in their backyard sooo many times. I think the sun just had a way of setting there perfectly. They always had Neapolitan ice cream sandwiches in their freezer. I couldn’t remember the word “Neapolitan” when I was a kid and would always call them “Napoleon” ice cream sandwiches instead. It would make them chuckle, but no one was in a rush to correct me.
Charro had two chihuahuas named “JJ” and “Charlotta.” Charlotta was a mean white plump gal who would bite peoples ankles and growl if anyone came 5 feet from Charro. JJ on the other hand was a black little scrawny dog who would wag his tail and look for any signs of affection. Charro wore RED socks everyday of his life. Each time I entered their home for a visit, he would shout my arrival by saying in a loud voice that was fit for an announcer “It’s not EVERYDAY, that the most beautiful girl in EAST LA, comes to visit me. CHARRO!” Even though I had a big frizzy afro, chicken legs and gapped buck teeth. I looked like a premature baby bird that had fallen out of the nest early. Needless to say, he really had a way of building my confidence.
Negra always had tassels all over the house, she made them all year for the local graduating class. This is the same woman who would volunteer her time each election to the voting polls. Never forgot a date of any sort… birthdays, anniversaries, etc… She use to save her empty egg shells for me, that way once Easter came to town I would have dozens of confetti eggs. She made flour tortillas everyday, she would rub the white pillowy dough with a handful of REX lard, then roll them out and put them on a comal to cook. She made life more wonderful… especially in the food department. She would put together a killer mac and cheese. Breaded pork chops with a cabbage slaw. Her chorizo refried beans were to die for. It was in that house, high above the city, where I was introduced to meatloaf. Negra made a basic loaf with very few veggies, and lots of ground beef. Thinking back, I decided all these years later to make mine with turkey and a ton of healthy vegetables in remembrance of all the lovely food they shared and the kindness Negra and Charro showered me with.
2 1/2 – pounds ground turkey
2 – cups zucchini (cubed)
1/2 – cup green onion (sliced)
3/4 – cup red onion (diced)
1 – cup yellow bell pepper (cubed)
1/2 – cup Lindsay black olives (sliced)
3/4 – cup red cabbage (chopped)/ or substitute with grated carrot
2 – cups mushrooms (sliced)
2 – eggs
1 – cup bread crumbs
3/4 – cup dried cranberries
1 1/2 – teaspoons Lawry’s seasoning salt
1 – tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1 – teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 – teaspoons dried basil/ or 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
3 – teaspoons worcestershire sauce
1 – tablespoon minced garlic
Optional – a pinch of crushed red chili flakes.
Preheat oven to 350 fahrenheit.
In a large mixing bowl, add all ingredients, then mix thoroughly by hand. Making sure all ingredients are combined.
Dividing meat mixture in half, fill two 5 x 9 loaf pans.
Place in oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until cooked all the way through. Then slice and serve. To make this meal extra healthy… I like to serve mine on a bed of green salad with sliced pears. Not to mention it taste good this way.
Eating LIGHT… never tasted so good!