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Today I have been mostly thinking about tuna. This is not as uncommon as an occurrence as it probably should be, but the fact still stands – Tuna. Last night I had tuna sandwiches for my tea, a vice that I indulge most weeks. Due to this regularity of tuna consumption I have been, over time, working on creating my ideal tuna based sandwich filling. For a while I eschewed the evil of mayonnaise, a substance that I generally detest in non-tuna situations unless being used as a garlic delivery system, but in more recent times have fallen for its charms, although only in a small quantity as a binding agent. Amounts of salt and pepper, including experimentation with the level of crushed-ness of sea-salt crystals to provide some crunchiness to the tuna mix, have been tried along with variation in the “curing time” – ie. amount of time left in the fridge while I go to the shop and buy bread after discovering that the last loaf has gone mouldy. The addition of cucumber at sandwich construction time has been examined and discarded, and the incorporation of sweetcorn at various stages of construction has been attempted, but put aside in favour of having a tiny tin of sweetcorn served with the sandwiches, complete with a certain delicately tiny teaspoon seemingly constructed for the conveyance of corn from tiny tin to not so tiny mouth. I’m all class me. There is however one variable unmentioned until now – the tuna.

Canned tuna fascinates me, as many unfascinating things seem to. How such a seemingly simple product can occupy so much shelf space in the supermarket with so many different varieties and with such a range of prices while at the same time having such minimal variation from the norm shocks me. If we discard the ready-mixed tuna salads (with mayonnaise, pepper, curry sauce, ratandbanana or whatever else) and the occasional outlier, such as the hopefully discontinued “tuna flakes” – aka “tuna mush”, then we are left with two variables in tuna selection – oil/brine and chunks/steak. Oil versus brine is an easy thing to contemplate – oil and salty water being things that most of us encounter on a semi-regular basis. I have tried my tuna creation with both oily and briny tuna and find that the oily tuna makes a tastier sandwich, although briny tuna does work well if one uses more mayonnaise, a situation that I shy from. But chunks and steaks? What is a “tuna chunk”? How does it differ from a “tuna steak”? From my cursory examinations of the contents of the cans I see no difference – a former catfood grade fish by-product, cooked in its can and sold to fools like myself. After some lackadaisacal internet searches in the past my morning obsession has today brought the goods – thankyou John West. It seems that there is no difference apart from the looser packing of chunks and the fact that tuna chunks seem to be 2-5p per can. I do not begrudge Mr West is fivepence, but I have often wondered. Anyway, my experiments will still continue.

My other concern with tuna is how much I have in my cupboard. My memory is quite bad, as is often noted, and my recall of the contents of my larder is sketchy to say the least. Over the years this has led to a number of coping mechanisms, not all focused around the availability of tuna, one of which is to have “emergency cans of stuff”, including beans, tomato soup and tuna, so that when I return home to find that the fantastic food that I’d remembered as being in the fridge is actually a figment of my imagination (I mean, where would I buy a hundredweight of caviar? Well, apart from at the iranian caviar shop down the road. It’s my imagination, stop picking holes) I have a couple of options for sustenance without having to drag my sorry and lazy carcass the 3 minutes down the road to the shops. When it comes to tuna I often get a hankering for some sarnies on the train. This means that I have an option on the walk home of popping into the shops to buy myself a can, or just rely on the fact that I have an emergency can in the cupboard. The sensible option here is to purchase a can anyway, leaving the emergency can ready for an actual emergency, but this leads to another problem – should I buy two cans? If I have no emergency can then the second can fills that niche and allows me to rest easy, knowing that a tuna craving can easily be satisified without wandering out into the danger of the Real World. But what if I have an emergency can already? This would give me 3 cans of tuna, although of course one would be eaten in the search for sandwich perfection. Again, this doesn’t sound like a problem, but this is where my bad memory comes in – what if I’ve already done this once before? That would leave me with yet another can in the cupboard, 3 now. By induction this means that eventually my entire house would be overflowing with tuna, a situation that appeals to me but is not conducive to playing computer games, sleeping or getting into my house, three things that I value more than having a neverending supply of canned tuna. It has been pointed out to me that by the time the number of cans of tuna in my house becomes a problem even my faulty brain would kick up a little bit of a warning memory, but I can’t let sense get in the way of such considerations.

Last night I bought two cans of tuna steak in the shops on the way home. I already had a can of chunks in the cupboard, so I now have two emergency cans. If any of you receive a plaintive phone call sometime in the upcoming months asking if I can stay at your house as I’ve had tuna can-slide and can’t open my door, please look kindly upon me. Last night’s sandwiches were excellent though, maybe worth the humiliation of being found crushed under a pallet of tuna chunks. In oil.


Comment from easterbunny
Time 29th February 2008 at 9:39 am

I love tuna. Canned, steaked, flaked, baked. I applaud your heroic shunning of the demon condiment mayonnaise; as you know, I also err to the side of BANNING EGGS LEST MAYONNAISE RESULT. I do like tuna salad made with cream cheese or yogurt, though.

Comment from billyabbott
Time 29th February 2008 at 9:46 am

I feel that cream cheese and yoghurt might impart too much of their own flavour onto the tuna (or salt and pepper delivery system, as it often turns out to be). I even, and I feel slightly dirty admitting this, use light mayonnaise these days, as it’s only one oily step up from water when it comes to flavour.

Comment from sulkyblue
Time 29th February 2008 at 10:48 am

You think that 3 cans of tuna in the cupboard is going to cause a catastrophe?! I buy the stuff in the big packs of four tins as part of my emergency stocks and frequently end up buying another pack of 4 before even opening the last one. Particularly given the current obsession my housemates have with hiding stuff away in random cupboards so I don’t know what we’ve got. There was eventually an intervention on the toilet roll front when they revealed they’d been hiding it away and I kept buying 12 packs thinking we were getting through it at a remarkable rate.

I’m pro mayonaise, pro a small amount of sweetcorn and definately pro cheese on top and melting it under the grill. In case of true emergency and lack of bread, keep a stock of crumpets in the freezer – tuna melt on crumpet…. now I’m hungry.

Comment from billyabbott
Time 29th February 2008 at 11:13 am

The putting of non-jam and non-marmite things on crumpets came up recently with kake talking of crumpet mini-pizzas. I have a pack on the window-sill that should have gone off two months ago but seem to be resolutely avoiding any mouldiness, so I should throw those out, buy more and create crumpetty goodness.

While I like a good cheese, sweetcorn and tuna melt (it being my pizza topping of choice) I try and keep my sandwiches as pure as possible. Mainly because I like eating sweetcorn out of the tin with a tiny spoon…

Comment from vatine
Time 29th February 2008 at 12:09 pm

I must asdmit to being partial to smearing pesto or similar on the (non-grilled) crumpet, then a layer or three of cheese and then in under the grill until done. Not a big fan of sweetened, as it happens (my absolute top favourite fizzy drink is sparkling water and my favourite candy is salty liquorice).

Comment from nou
Time 29th February 2008 at 3:10 pm

I made a tuna sandwich using goats’ milk yoghurt once. It was tasty.

I don’t want to think about how many cans of tuna I have in the cupboard.

Comment from pfig
Time 29th February 2008 at 11:35 pm

i’m generally a lousy cook, but i make an excellent tuna/mayo thingie and an awesome pasta with tuna. screw the dolphins, they’re jumping ship anyway.

Comment from davachu
Time 1st March 2008 at 2:54 pm

I had some leftover cooked fresh tuna here a while back and happened to have a stick of fresh sweetcorn. I can safely say that fresh tuna, fresh sweetcorn, and yes, proper mayonnaise, on sourdough bread from the craft bakers round the corner was the Best Tuna Sarnie Evah!

So ner.

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