By Susan Maas
Carol Falkowski (B.A. ’75) is a national authority on drug abuse and addiction. Now, with the publication of her revolutionary cookbook Meatloaf Outside the Pan—a how-to treasury of quirky, nutritious meat sculptures—she’s also gaining a following as the Bernini of beef.
In both roles, she says, her goal is to help alter people’s behavior. “I’m a firm believer in the capacity of people to change. Now I’m encouraging people to change their meatloaf behavior and resist the pan!”
Falkowski currently runs her own consulting firm, Drug Abuse Dialogues, training health professionals, law enforcement, judges, educators, and parents on trends in drug abuse. Prior to founding the firm in 2012, she worked for 25 years in state government, including as director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, and 10 years at Hazelden Foundation (now the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation) to combat substance addiction.
Grim statistics and shattering conversations have always been part of her work. “It seems every time I give a presentation— whether it’s a professional presentation or a community [discussion]—someone will hang back afterwards and identify themselves as a parent who’s lost a child to opiate overdose,” Falkowski says. “It breaks your heart.”
She needed levity in her life. “So: Enter meatloaf. It’s uplifting and fun,” she says. Falkowski comes from a long line of artists and crafters. “I guess it just took me all these years to find my medium—raw beef and vegetables,” she laughs. Most of the book’s meatloaves start with the same core recipe sculpted into myriad shapes and ingeniously decorated with other food. She refers to her book-signings as “meet-and-greetloafs.”
There’s a meatloaf lion, with a mane of macaroni and cheese. There’s a clown meatloaf, with a red tomato nose and carrot curls for hair. There’s a rubber ducky meatloaf, covered in mashed potatoes “dyed” gold with mustard and sporting a yellow bell pepper wing.
She can’t seem to stop. Since the cookbook’s publication last year, Falkowski has been on a tear: This past fall she created a picture-perfect lobster, baseball meatloaf for the World Series, and Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton meatloaves. And during the holiday season, she admits, “I got way over the top,” sometimes meatloafing as many as five times a day. Her husband is a fan, but she’s making way more than a two-person household can consume, so friends and her grown children are often beneficiaries.
She hopes the book is giving families a fun incentive to spend time loafing around in the kitchen together. When it comes to drug abuse prevention, research suggests that the family dinner table can play a key protective role: According to studies from the national Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, teens who eat dinner with their families several times a week are less likely to use alcohol and other drugs.
Falkowski preaches that when you liberate yourself from needlessly confining bakeware, the creative possibilities are endless; she says she’s got “a million” more ideas. “I’m just getting started. Everywhere I look, I see meatloaf.”
Falkowski’s meatloaf innovations can be found at outsidethepan.com.