tuna fish

I grew up with two sets of grandparents. The requisite two sets that people grew up with in the 1960s and 1970s. On my mother's side of the family there were the Lauterbachs - Mama Jean and Papa Harry. They lived "in town" in Hope, Arkansas. They liked to play cards with their friends Helen and Lynn. Mama Jean was (and still is) famous for her chicken spaghetti. My grandparents on the Bobo side were Grandma (Jewell) and Grandpa (Rex), and they lived out Highway 29, about 12 miles south of Hope. Grandma was (and still is) famous for her chicken-and-dressing. Both of my grandmothers were great cooks, and they seemed to enjoy nothing more than having large groups of their children and their children's children running around eating whatever they cooked. At Grandma's house, I can remember being asked if I wanted light bread or cornbread, buttermilk or sweet milk.  Sweet tea versus unsweet tea was never an issue, because the tea was always sweet.

I'd like to think this was one of those Tuna Salad Saturdays at the Beers family estate.
Another food memory is my mom's tuna salad. Those days it was usually on white bread, and usually with potato chips. Sometimes we would have it on saltine crackers. And almost always with that good ol' sweet tea. Everybody I knew called it "tuna fish." I'm not sure why. Tuna is fish. So why did we call it "tuna fish?" Is that a southern thing? Wayne remembers his mom making tuna salad sandwiches for the boys for Saturday lunch, first in New Jersey, and later in Oklahoma.

Today we don't think of tuna salad as being anything really special, but I can remember it being kind of a treat whenever Mom made it. Maybe it was because she didn't make it all the time.  Today we make big batches of tuna salad at W. D. Deli all the time. We have customers who will come in and ask for "tuna fish" by the pint. Some people have it atop their caesar salad, and some order it as a sandwich with some potato salad on the side. We'll make whole trays of tuna salad sandwiches on croissants for catering orders.  The recipe we use is the same one that Wayne's mom has been using for years, and here it is:


4 Five- or six-ounce cans of chunk light or white albacore tuna, packed in water, drained. (Squeeze the water out of it.)
4 or 5 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1/2 large red/purple onion, chopped
1 cup mayo
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Mix it all up and you're done. There you go.  We make it in much larger batches for the deli, but this should make a decent amount of tuna salad. Probably enough for you to share. With several people. Buy some great bread to put it on and invite somebody over. Go ahead.

My mom's recipe was basically the same, except she added chopped sweet pickles and chopped red delicious apples. And, oh yeah, Wayne's mom used Hellman's mayonnaise. My mom always used Miracle Whip.  If you come to the deli, and I'm having a tuna salad sandwich lunch, I've probably added a little sweet pickle and a little apple to make it taste more like Mom's.


  1. Mom always made hers with miracle whip, apple and sweet relish. I now make mine with mayo, onion and dill relish. Of course we both also used boiled eggs.


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