Cab Calloway’s orchestra, c. 1934
This holiday season, you may want to consider making “Millionaire Meatloaf,” a dish the late, great bass player Milt Hinton and trombonist Tyree Glenn conjured up while touring with Cab Calloway. This story is not only one of food, but also of the culinary creativity required of jazz musicians during a time of segregation, when even getting a meal was a tremendous challenge.
“Since we often couldn’t even sit in restaurants, Cab, being a very engineering man who tried to keep us out of as much of that stuff as possible, bought an electric stove, a big thing that you could put a roasted turkey in. It had three compartments. We had a case made for it and we carried plates and knives and forks. Most theaters in those days had kitchens, but if they didn’t we could use our stove and cook our dinner between shows. Several guys in the band would team up to cook. Tyree Glenn, the trombone player, and I liked to cook together. We would get up early and go to the store, set up the kitchen down in the basement of the theater and cook. Tyree liked a thing called Millionaire Meatloaf. We called it that because it wasn’t cheap at all.
“It had one pound of ground beef, a pound of sausage meat and a pound of veal, ground up. We mashed it all up, put in salt and pepper and powdered garlic, took five or six slices of bread, crumbled them up and mixed it in there. Then we put in one egg. For three pounds we’d use up one large onion, one large green pepper, and two sticks of celery, chopped up fine. You mixed it in, kneaded it like you knead bread, and formed it into a loaf. We’d put a slight amount of butter on the bottom, cover it and let it cook at 350 degrees for an hour during shows.
“When we came off the first show, we’d put in a can of tomato puree and let it cook for another half hour or so. In the other two compartments we had some baked rice and something green. After the second show, about 5:30 or 6 o’clock, all the guys in the band had their own plates and knives and forks and they’d come back and have a wonderful dinner. We made Cab get in line just like everybody else. He couldn’t go to those restaurants either.”
Excerpted from Jazz Cooks: Portraits and Recipes of the Greats
Bob Young and Al Stankus
Visit our photo essay, Jazz: Through the Life and Lens of Milt Hinton