Imagine our surprise when idly thumbing through the recently published “A Meatloaf in Every Oven: Two Chatty Cooks, One Iconic Dish and Dozens of Recipes – From Mom’s to Mario Batali’s” we came across a recipe for meatloaf from Sen. Susan Collins.

The book, written with friendly good humor by former New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni (he now writes for the op-ed page) and New York Times correspondent Jennifer Steinhauer, stemmed from obsessive conversations the two food lovers often had at the office about, of all things, meatloaf.

“Meatloaf is the most personal of dishes, and the most autobiographical,” they write in the introduction. “Show us a person’s meatloaf and we’ll show you that person’s soul. Meatloaf is mirror: You are how you loaf.”

The recipes range from the classic to what used to be called “ethnic” (Chicken Curry Masala Loaf with Mango Chutney Glaze). They include loaves made from beef, lamb, turkey or zucchini. There’s high-brow (Auvergne-Style Loaf with Prunes) and homey (Joan Futter’s Meatloaf, made with cornflake crumbs and Lipton onion soup mix).

Collins is in excellent company. Famous chefs are represented (Michael Solomonov of Israeli restaurant Zahav in Philadelphia, for one), and also other politicians: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer share recipes for meatloaf in the “Political Postscript” chapter.

That chapter also relates the following anecdote about Collins, told – as is much of the book – in the form of a chat between Bruni and Steinhauer.

“JENN: We were very proud that we were able to perfectly emulate the loaf of (Collins’) youth in our own kitchens, which we can state with confidence because when we brought her a slice to taste, she was so enamored with it that she wished to discuss it for a full 30 minutes. This did not amuse her staff, who were trying to usher her off to give a speech.

“FRANK: This is why we and so many other Americans respect Senator Collins so much. She has priorities. She has values. She knows what is important, and when standing at a fork in the road, with oratory in one direction and ground meat in the other, she heads without hesitation toward the loaf.”

It’s an oft-heard cliché that sharing food – breaking bread – brings us together. An oversimplification, like most clichés. Still, if ever we needed a Bipartisan Loaf, it’s now.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS’ BIPARTISAN LOAF

Recipe and text from “A Meatloaf in Every Oven” by Frank Bruni and Jennifer Steinhauer.

“Senator Susan Collins of Maine may be best known for her willingness to cooperate with colleagues across the aisle and for her expertise on appropriations, but her non-political passion is all things food. She runs a weekly lunch group with her fellow Republicans, in which each member shows off his or her home-state specialty. She spends every weekend in front of the stove or oven, cooking up treats for her husband.

“Among his favorites is the meatloaf created by her mother, Pat. It has a few special twists: pungent dry mustard, horseradish and a topping of barbecue sauce rather than ketchup. ‘I grew up in a large family with five brothers and sisters,’ the senator told us. ‘The six of us all had very different food preferences, but on one thing we were unanimous: We all loved my mother’s meatloaf.’ ”

Serves 6

2 teaspoons olive oil

3/4 cup minced onion

2 large eggs

2 pounds ground chuck

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs

1/4 cup minced green bell peppers

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

2 tablespoons dry mustard

1/4 cup whole milk

3/4 cup barbecue sauce

1 slice bacon

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet or a large baking pan with parchment paper. (This loaf can also be made in a lightly oiled loaf pan, to keep it strictly Pat Collins correct.)

2. Warm the olive oil in a small skillet over low heat, add the onions and saute until they are soft and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs lightly with a fork. Mix in the beef and then the breadcrumbs (slightly cooled), onions and bell peppers. Add the horseradish, dry mustard, milk and 1/4 cup of the barbecue sauce.

4. Place the bacon slice lengthwise on top, and then spread the remaining 1/2 cup barbecue sauce over the loaf.

5. Bake for roughly 50 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches about 150 degrees F. Let the loaf rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.