I’m preparing two essays, one brief and another longer, on religion, knowledge, and contemporary society. Plus, I’m due to post an update on the job search. Meanwhile, as I’m continually threatening to violate the spirit and form of a blog with my long even if somewhat spontaneous ruminations, here’s a few small things.

First, cooking: I haven’t had much to say on that issue recently. I haven’t really been exploring or experimenting much lately. My only new thing has been a curry-parsnip soup from Deborah Madison’s Greens cookbook, which I’ve made a couple times and in each case the result was impressive but promising even greater glory with a little finessing. The recipe is out there, or you can ask me for it.

I have been thinking a little about tuna salad sandwiches. I make an excellent tuna salad; I mean excellent. It’s fairly basic, though, with only classic ingredients, which leads me to wonder what else might be done with it? What else might get thrown in and mixed up? I usually have mine on wheat sandwich bread, lightly toasted, but there doesn’t exist a sandwich that cannot be improved by putting it on better bread. (Case in point: grilled cheese on crusty ciabatta rather than sandwich bread.) What bread might really improve tuna salad? Multigrain, sure, but what else?

The tuna I use is Progresso solid white tuna packed in olive oil. I do not generally use albacore out of mercury concerns. Tuna packed in olive oil is a little more expensive than the tuna packed in water or non-specified vegetable oil, but, hey, it’s canned tuna – slightly more expensive canned tuna is still a cheap version of a classy protein.

I have no knowledge about the sustainability or environmental feasibility of canned white tuna, but it’s not that I don’t care – I do care, where and when I have information, but so far I’ve only even made the smallest headway in habituating myself to selecting fresh or frozen fish according to minimal damage to the health of the sea or a species. I have to admit that my resistance to all the harping on the subject has been building. And while I recognize that our appetite for seafood is threatening the continued existence of all ocean life, I cannot at this point accept that  we need to stop eating seafood entirely, as some would suggest. To remove ourselves entirely from a long history of pleasure at the variety and bounty of food drawn from the sea would seem to me to have its own unexplored consequences. Sorry to air my opinions in this case, but it seems that one cannot write about seafood any longer without touching on the ethics of it.

Anyway, the recipe (measurements approximate):

1 can tuna

3 tablespoons to 1/4 cup mayonnaise. At the most, I think. Some may have different feelings on this, but I’m not one to enjoy the tuna salad when it’s been saturated in mayo. The mayo should moisten and bond, not dominate.

1 tablespoon spicy mustard. I like Grey Poupon Country-Style, but there are so many choices out there.

1 rib celery finely chopped.

4-5 small gherkins, finely chopped. You could use relish and cut down on the chopping time, but why would you?  Hand-chopping the pickles and celery is what elevates this from bland to classic.

1 small clove garlic, minced. Optional, I suppose, as this might make the salad taste a little harsh to non-garlic lovers. It does really add something, though.

A few dashes Tabasco. Not optional. A few dashes isn’t going to heat it up much, and a little hot pepper zing really helps cement that tuna-mayonnaise combination. Don’t believe me? Go get some sushi and report back. The spicy in that spicy tuna roll is a hot sauce made from mayo and Tabasco and maybe some MSG (which is fine unless you have hypertension, really).

Salt and pepper.

Stir up with a fork and spread it on some bread. This recipe makes two sandwiches. No more. Two sandwiches. You’re trying to stretch it out? It’s tuna. Use two cans if you’re fixing more than two sandwiches.

So that’s the best classic tuna salad spread that I know how to make. Any suggestions? How else can classic tuna salad be prepared? What else might go into it? Lettuce or not?

Second, the photographs in my last post don’t show up well compressed. My (inexpensive, non-Adobe) photo-editing software is one of only a very few things not cooperating with Windows 7. It’s not saving the files as .jpgs, which is what I’d ordinarily use. So I had to save them as .gifs, hence the oddness. I tried resaving the .gifs as .jpgs using different software, but that introduced all manner of artifacts into the image. I can’t afford any new software, so I’ll be looking for free photo enhancement software for posting images on the Web. Any suggestions would be lovely.

Thirdly, this story has been making the rounds of the blogs. An American manufacturer that has been supplying rifle sights to the military has been inscribing those sights with references to a variety of New Testament Bible verses. So much for the Prince of Peace, eh? This account unnerves me at a number of levels -among them the corruption of Jesus’s original teachings, which, even if I no longer find sacred, still resonate with me, and the lack of respect for founding principles of American democracy and those serving in the military – but perhaps not everyone finds it as creepy as I do. The corporation is unapologetic and makes the usual justifications. I think at some level we have to admit and recognize that while Christianity begins and often speaks to its origin as a religion of the oppressed, throughout most of its history it has been the religion of empire and the powerful. Disassociation between its content and its use are not uncommon for it, or for any other religion. That’s one response, although I acknowledge that more favorable understandings of the role of the verses on the sights are conceivable. As for the violation of secular principles, I wonder, can we still ask whether the War on Terror might be in some respects a religious war? Should we?

I love the sensationalist edge of the ABC take on the story that I’m linking to above: the sights contain “secret ‘Jesus’ Bible codes”! Ha! Although they are incorporated visually into the serial number of the sight, any person passably literate in the Bible (which I’m going to assume is the majority of Americans, regardless of their persuasion) would recognize 2COR4:6 as reference to 2nd Corinthians 4:6. Although they’re discrete, the intention does not seem to be secretive. Biblical literacy a secret code? Well, for some people it is, but I don’t think that’s what ABC means by secret Jesus Bible codes. I do think that this company and the military are in error here and should make some changes, but as is often the case, I find the reaction almost as interesting as the fault. Last minute update: major fumbling by the military on the issue. Someone’s going into early retirement over that one.



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5 responses to “Miscellany

  1. tbudd

    I’m pretending your recipe is for chicken salad, not tuna, since we’re all aware of my distaste for fish. May I suggest reducing the amount of mayo and adding a few hefty dollops of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt? This will add tang without grease. I also use pickles, garlic dills though, and some finely chopped, practically minced, carrots for crunch and texture. Bread choice is extremely important. Toasted brioche?

    And I liked the pictures from your last post. I thought they were very clear, actually. Most impressive were your tracking skills. I would have been too busy trying to get out of the snow (and wondering why I was walking) to even notice such a thing.


    • woodthrush

      You know, that’s funny – I can’t stand chicken salad. Chopped carrots is good; I’ve done that. I’ll have to try the garlic dill. I could leave out the garlic clove I bet in that case. Not so sure I can follow you on the sour cream/Greek yogurt: I’m very fond of both ingredients, but I think the tuna/mayo combination sacrosanct. And when you have leftover grilled tuna steak and handmade mayo (which I do, from time to time, since my favorite meal is grilled tuna and french fries with homemade remoulade) … oh, that’s good.

      Don’t be impressed with my tracking – real outdoorsmen would laugh at me for not knowing the cat/fox difference. It’s apparently easy to spot, but I can’t quite get it.


  2. Romana Uhlirova

    Recipes! Cubed apples and/or a bit of onion are also good in fish salads. I like the contrast of the salty fishiness & the sweetness/crunch of the apples. And I often use mackerel or sardines instead of tuna. Yes, a good bread is a must. I like any crusty type bread or some dark heavy malty Russian bread I get at the Russian store in HP. Tabasco sounds like a good idea. I’ll try it.


    • woodthrush

      Tabasco should be universal, it’s such a great hot sauce – not perfect as a condiment, but excellent as an ingredient.

      Those are some excellent suggestions – apple has always been such a nice addition to tuna preparations, I’m surprised that I’ve never considered it in tuna salad for sandwiches (and it’s good in chicken salad, too, Tracy, with tarragon). I’d forgotten entirely about mackerel – but sardines? Pray tell, how does that work? (And I may be pressing on my family’s tolerance for little fishies with that; my interest in anchovies doesn’t exactly inspire praise around here.)


  3. Romana

    So sardines you ask about? What do you want to know? Well, just take some canned sardines (I like the lightly smoked) and use them the same way you would use tuna or mackerel — add all the regular fish salad ingredients and voila…ready to eat. Yes, there are some little bones in them but they are so soft, you won’t even notice. Fresh sardines are also great for grilling. Delicious, nutritious & probably better for you than some of the larger fish, no?


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