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Nov 16, 2001 12:02 AM

Tuna Salad

  • b

I'm a tuna salad addict. I love tuna salad. I have eaten tuna salad breakfast, lunch and dinner for whole weeks on end. It never tires me, never bores me, always feels like a meal. Human kind cannot survive on bread alone, which is why we have tuna salad.

Great tuna salad is a masterpiece of simplicity: two cans of chunk white albacore tuna (Bumblebee brand, preferably, though any will do except Chicken of the Sea), two heaping tablespoons of Helmann's mayonnaise (called Best Foods mayonnaise west of the Mississippi), finely diced de-veined celery, onion powder, black pepper and lemon pepper. No salt required.

Serve this on deep golden white toast with a leaf of Iceberg lettuce and a pickle spear and you've got the perfect sandwich. If you must put other things in your tuna salad, diced onions are acceptable, and even a bit of pickle relish is fair game. But the path of great tuna salad is narrow and tricky, walk it with care!

Never make tuna salad with low-grade mayo or (worst of all) Kraft Sandwich Spread. Vegetables do not belong in tuna salad. Feel free to serve it on cucumbers, but never dice cucumbers into the tuna salad itself! Hollow out a tomato and scoop the tuna salad into it if you must, but find some other use for the tomato innards--it is a sin to dump them into the tuna salad (makes it watery). In rare cases, add a few capers, but that's only when trying to impress royalty. Tuna salad needs nothing of asparagus tips, olives, pimentoes or other foreign agents. Tuna salad isn't harmed by a dash of paprika, but garlic does not belong, nor do herbes de Provence, Italian seasoning, basil or parsley (okay, a sprig can be nice, but no more). If you add dill to tuna salad, it becomes something else entirely. It's not bad, whatever it is, but it isn't tuna salad. I call it "grav tuna salad."

Tuna salad belongs in a tuna melt, but hot tuna salad doesn't have the same power that it has when cold (no one knows why). Tuna salad done right is a great creation, an ideal of perfection. I will judge a diner by its tuna salad sandwich, first and foremost. The tuna salad test is without fail--good tuna salad makes a good restaurant.

I love tuna salad. Tuna salad, tuna salad, tuna salad! Is it 2:00am? I want a tuna salad sandwich. I want one for breakfast a few hours later. I have had a scoop of tuna salad in a bowl as a dessert. If I want to try a new spice, I put it in tuna salad to see how the flavor changes: the tuna salad litmus test. What improves tuna salad? A day in the fridge, undisturbed, allowing the flavors to meld, the texture to evolve, the temperature to settle to a glorious 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once there was a fair land where the sun shone like spun gold over the mountains. The air was crisp each morning, the people happy, the sovereign gentle and just, the society a harmonious, utopian whole. This is tuna salad. This is the deep truth of tuna salad.


A Burke and Wells Essay


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  1. Peter, the next time you complain that it's hard to return to your tuna sandwich lunch after browsing Chowhound, I will not feel sorry for you at all! (vbg)

    1. Oh my goodness, so much tuna...please be careful b/c even too much of a good thing can be harmful. Lots in the news these days about Mercury toxicity w too much fish consumption..ESPECIALLY tuna!

      1. Wow - I thought I was the only one who loved Tuna salad so much! I to can eat it for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner - and I like to keep it pretty simple. No special seasonings, no fancy vegetables. When I get the often asked question, "If you were stranded on a deserted island, what one food item would you choose?", my answer is usually Tuna salad sandwiches (alhtough sometimes I waver and choose spaghetti and meatballs). My wife was convinced that I was the only person in the world who would choose Tuna - now I know she is wrong.

        1. great post. for an experiment, try it with tahina sauce, and fresh squeezed lemon. its darn good- add olive oil to it as well.

          1. No, no, no.

            The perfect tuna salad contains little chunks of tart apple and tinier chunks of hot onion, a LITTLE bit of mayonnaise (if you can spread it, it's got too much mayonnaise), and some celery seed.

            LET THE TUNA WAR BEGIN! muahahahahaha...

            4 Replies
            1. re: PRSMDave

              Love your posts. in tuna. NEVER!
              No scary laughter included.... ;)

              1. re: berkleybabe

                Don't knock it 'till you've tried it babe. It's really quite tasty. Although I don't put it in sandwich tuna salad. That's pretty much plain "ole Burke & Welles style, on crunchy whole wheat toast though, not white.

                1. re: bryan

                  I have to agree with the original, mayo (no kraft), pepper, celery and I use a few capers and I do put a dab a pickle relish. Just a family thing. But yep, lettuce and pickle slices, no slices if I put relish in the tuna. I like Oat Bran or a honey wheat but lightly toasted.

                  Absolute heaven!

                  I do make fresh grilled tuna salads and pastas and different sandwiches with a viniagrette, veggies, etc. Completely.

                  But true Tuna Salad ... I total agree with the original post.

              2. re: PRSMDave

                close to my recipe (passed from momma) - tuna, mayo, red onion, red apple, celery (a tad tad), and curry powder.