Bessie’s Tuna Fish Salad

There came a day when I had a chance to sample some of Bessie’s tuna fish salad. I don’t know if this was a handed-down recipe from her native North Carolina. Maybe she saw the recipe in a magazine? Maybe she just made it up “on the fly”. And maybe it was a “one-off”, something that she never made again.

I guess that I could reach out to her for the background. But I prefer leaving the source and inspiration to the fog of mystery.

Now look… there is nothing elaborate in making tuna fish salad, right? Canned tuna fish, mayonnaise and maybe some light seasoning… lemon pepper? The key is the quantity relationship between tuna fish and the mayo; and honestly that’s a judgment call and left to personal taste. Then, whether to add a bit of chopped celery and that is more a matter of style… like whether to use kidney beans in your chili.

Taking the above into consideration, Bessie’s iteration was to add chopped onion and chopped hard boiled eggs to the mixture. A radical innovation? No. Just, as it turns out, a wonderful enhancement to what is clearly a pedestrian dish.

Picasso had his “blue period”. And I am going thru a “tuna period”. This is a warm weather event that follows an exhaustive use of my Weber grill. And recently I have taken on the challenge of recreating Bessie’s recipe… as already stated I didn’t need forensic evidence to establish the ingredients. Just a matter of assembly and tinkering with the proportions! But I took this as a serious endeavor, and not surprisingly, during the prep I decided to eschew my typical consumption of a beaker or two of gin.

Further, after my first try (which was very good), I decided to add elbow macaroni to the mixture… now morphing the recipe into a cold macaroni-tuna fish salad. After three times I’d say that it’s pretty good (Sandy says, “very good”), or in the least, this version is “interesting”. I was not looking to replace Bessie’s recipe… which is impossible to do. Too much of a person’s love and judgment is embodied in a recipe, and that can’t be replicated. I know this well. Do you really think there is a soul who could make an Extra-Dry Tanqueray Martini to surpass mine? QED


2 small cans: Tunafish packed in water, drained
Some: Mayonnaise
Some: Chopped Onion
Some: Chopped Celery
1-2: Chopped hard boiled egg
1 cup: Elbow macaroni, cooked and chilled
Some: Fresh ground pepper
Some: Paprika sprinkled on top

1. Mix everything up, and consider yourself lucky that I didn’t make up an elaborate 15 step process.

n.b.  The use of paprika is a tribute to Mommie Soph who I think put paprika on everything except her Special K breakfast cereal.

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