About Me

My photo
on the downward side of the age mountain.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Is there an East Coast Tuna Sandwich in the House?

There was an article in the New York Times food section last Wednesday that I not only thoroughly enjoyed but also stimulated my “little grey cells” (as Hercules Poirot alluded to his brain). Under the Feed Me category by Alex Witchel was a piece titled Childhood Was Just Around the Corner. Ms. Witchel humorously describes how we cling to our food memories thinking that if we liked a said dish others naturally would. A second part of the story discusses our quest to re-create “historical” dishes. Then there is the culinary crossroad that some reach
when we try to adopt other’s food memories as if they are ours( I turn Mediterranean every summer with the plethora of vegetables), not only to be disappointed, but that they don’t connect the dots to our imagination.

One quest that Ms. Wichel was able to satisfy, thanks to her sister, was how tuna salad from Artie’s Delicatessen on Broadway at 83rd was a dead ringer for her Saturday night tuna at summer camp. This memory struck very close to home. You see, East Coast Deli Tuna is something I crave. I never knew that there could be different ways to make restaurant tuna until I moved to the Edge and now I have an almost fanatical yearning. I always order mine on toasted white bread. The cook uses an ice cream scoop and places the tuna salad in the middle of the bread so when it is cut diagonal there is a mountain in the middle, too thick to bite into and none on the edges. My adult additions include lettuce, tomato, and a slice of onion. Granted the lettuce and tomato are less than memorable but I like the added challenge to eating the sandwich.

The tuna must be white albacore and blended with copious amounts of mayonnaise to achieve an almost pâté-like consistency. Celery and onions are allowed but in infinitesimal dice so as not to distract from the salad texture. The perfect beverage? Lots of diner coffee at just the right almost tongue-burning temperature. I took this all for granted before I move to the Edge.

I should have known I was in for trouble the first time I ordered my tuna and coffee when the waitress asked if I wanted it with mayonnaise. I pondered- How else would it be made-

By the time my sandwich was placed in front of me, I was dreading my first bite. I removed the slice of generic tomato, onion, both true to form, and what was this? A piece of curly green leaf? Where was the armor of iceberg protecting the scoop of tuna with its curved shape? And then-blasphemy! The tuna used wasn’t albacore but chunk light. It didn’t have a smooth pâté consistency and pickle relish had been added. Yes, they grudgingly made it with a minimum of mayo or could it have been Miracle Whip? The mayo the waitress had asked me about was slathered on the toast. My eyes welled up with disappointment.

I had a revelation that day. I’ve turned into a diner eating east coast tuna queen. My NSSP goes back to his roots with corned beef or pastrami. I open the huge plastic menu and pretend I’ll order something different. Salami and eggs? Feta, tomato omelets- a Greek diner staple? Matzo Ball Soup? It’s all a ruse. I know the minute we slide into those huge Naugahyde banquettes with a metal bowl of pickles placed in front that it will be tuna and coffee. I will be in east coast heaven.

No comments: