notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Tuna

I have done a grave disservice to the honorable, reliable, unpretentious Sandwich.

I realized this yesterday at Costco.

One of my favorite activities at Costco is looking at everyone else’s cart and trying to invent the person’s story by what they buy. It’s easier to do this at a warehouse store rather than the supermarket, because when people buy in BULK – their real personality shines through like Tom Cruise’s teeth on the red carpet.

There’s nothing like 12 chickens to give me a whole chapter for a sci-fi novel. Or 48 rolls of toilet paper. Or the old guy with bags and bags of onions.

Anyhow… (Have you ever noticed how many sentences I begin with “anyhow”? That is my Tell…. my obvious sign that I am bringing myself back around to the topic after I’ve meandered away just for my own entertainment.)

So anyhow, yesterday at Costco, besides the chicken-laden shopping cart and the geezer that had need of 77 onions, there was a lady with two huge bags that each held 24 small pack-in-your-lunch-size bags of potato chips. Her obvious story is that she’s got three kids and so she’ll have lunch for the kids for the next 3 weeks. Her less obvious story is that she’s got 24 kids, and so she only has 2 days’ worth of lunchbox chips. Her even lesser obvious story is that she likes to feed ducks and she wants the ducks to each get their own bag.

Anyhow, that’s how I started to feel all kinds of guilt over my neglect of the simple sandwich.

Because all through high school, I had one of those little bags of potato chips in my lunch. My sandwich lunch.

I don’t eat many sandwiches now… carbs, cold cut sodium… all that shit. But the truth is: I love sandwiches.

And I wrote recently of my deep and abiding love for Reuben sandwiches.which was not fair. Because oh my God, simple sandwiches are so wonderful too.

I love peanut butter and jelly, I love salami, I love liverwurst, I love egg salad. I love veal loaf, ham, turkey, bacon, bologna – all kinds of sandwiches.

At our house, lunches for the next day were prepared after dinner. With supper all cleaned up, my mother would take out the sandwich fixings. Bread, mayo, mustard, cheese – and the main ingredient – cold cuts or tuna salad.

And of course little bags of potato chips. And a Yodel. My brother liked RingDings, but I liked Yodels… my Mother used to buy the Yodels one week, and the RingDings the next.I am proud to say, I suffered through the RingDings for my little brother’s sake. I only have a mild case of PTSD as a result.

Anyhow, no one can make a neater sandwich than Mom. I feel sorry for kids today, with their stupid flimsy little baggies with sandwiches that slosh around in there, slowly falling apart. Back in the sixties, we didn’t have little baggies. We had waxed paper.

cutrite

 

You could press autumn leaves in waxed paper, using an iron, if you were really careful (and if your mother didn’t catch you doing it.) But the main purpose of waxed paper was to wrap wonderful sandwiches.

My mom was a nurse, and she had years and years of practice making neat hospital corners on the bed sheets, and her sandwich wrapping was as good as it gets. Her sandwiches were so perfect, it was like you got a sweet little Christmas present every day.

sandwich-in-waxed-paper

Mom would make several perfect sandwiches. She bought little brown bags by the hundred, and she’d put a sandwich, a bag of chips, a Yodel (if I was lucky) and perhaps a piece of fruit in each bag.

And she would label each bag with an initial. “M” for Mom, “D” for Dad, “T” for Tommy and “N” for Nancy. (My two sisters were both “Cs”, which would have been confusing, but they were in college, and so were way above a lunch bag.) Sometimes all the bags held exactly the same thing, but my mother would put an initial on each one anyway.

brownbag

I loved all my sandwiches. But my favorite – by far – was tunafish. How I loved (and still love) a tunafish sandwich with a side of potato chips.

Now I don’t know whether mayonnaise was a lot more stable fifty years ago, or whether we were just hardier, tougher kids, but no one worried about the tuna salad spoiling. I would put that lunch bag in my purse at 7 A.M., and would eat it as late as 1 P.M. I never got poisoned. It seemed liked the longer you carried your tuna sandwich, the better it tasted – like the bread and the tuna melded as one.

And that waxed paper… why you didn’t even need a plate, because that paper unfolded to the nicest little placemat you can imagine.

Thinking about high school lunch – why it was just absolutely the best part of high school. I’d meet up with Patti and Karen and Chris and Mary and sometimes Charlene or Barbara…depending on the day of the week, and we’d all have our little brown bags. Some days we ALL had a tunafish sandwich. We’d each buy a little carton of milk. We would watch the girls at the popular table. We’d talk about boys and teachers and The Rolling Stones. All over the cafeteria were kids all talking at once… and either eating the school lunch – like Sloppy Joes – or tuna sandwiches. The noise was incredible. (not the eating – the hollering)

Not all of high school was nice. But boy, lunchtime was nice. Those sandwiches were nice.

As I said earlier, I don’t each much bread anymore (which is kind of a shame, because I am quite a good baker of bread), but every once in a while, I MUST have a sandwich. Most often I will have peanut butter and jelly, because it is so easy – and tasty. And sometimes when I visit my Mom, we’ll have sandwiches. Mom always has good cold cuts – and she always always always has good bread. Mom is a connoisseur of bread.

And on very special days for hubby and me, I take out the tuna (two cans of tuna because the dog and both cats come running as soon as they hear that swoosh of the can opener) and the mayo, and the potato chips (which I buy only for company, but pray all the time they are visiting that they don’t eat them all) – and I have the most fabulous lunch, accompanied not only by the chips but by the best memories ever.

twosandwiches

48 Comments

  1. Deb

    We didn’t have wax paper, so that makes me wonder what my sandwiches were wrapped in… but I’m right there with you on the 4 or 5 or 6 hours of unrefrigerated tuna. Never an issue. And, I was a Twinkie gal 😉

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    • I liked the Hostess chocolate cupcakes, but not the Twinkies. My husband still likes Twinkies. And those Sno-Ball things.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sally Habib

      If you like tuna you must try it with salted
      peanuts … Not mixed in just placed on the
      top of the tuna … It sounds strange but is
      quite good … And some of my best lunches
      were spent at the Santa Barbara Cemetery
      which is positively lovely eating tuna fish
      sandwiches … With chips …

      Like

  2. ultrarunner2014

    I loved reading this! You are lucky that your mom made you such beautiful sandwiches in high school! Mine would have too but I insisted on making my own, which were either peanut butter and raspberry jam or turkey slices and mayo…(2 sandwiches). Many times I would save my 2nd turkey sandwich until after school and after track practice, 5 or 6 pm, and never had a problem. I think kids back then were hardier.

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    • Once in a while I would be the family sandwich maker, or my sister Claudia… but I think my mother liked doing it… all those perfectly wrapped sandwiches and the initials on the bags.

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  3. Thought I was the only one who secretly created life stories from potential purchases in carts. Or how about the game of guessing what they really came to buy? Ever do that? I would be the psychologist-cashier if I worked as one ! Always analyzing…

    Hope some day my kids talk fondly about the lunches I made them and the special notes written on their napkins or the longer ones tucked into the bag.

    Love your writing, you make it feel as though we are talking over coffee or perhaps mimosas!

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    • You make special notes?!?!?! That’s really nice. I was happy with an initial on the bag.

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  4. Your post had me reminiscing about my school lunches too. I grew up in Queensland Australia in the tropics where it was always hot and humid. School bags were left outside but we didnt seem to mind or even think how this would affect our school lunches. Maybe food poisoning is harder to get than we think. Sweaty sandwich anyone? 😕

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    • When I was in college, I did my student teaching in Puerto Rico…it was really hot. The mother of the family I lived with would make sandwiches and freeze them, and put them into our lunch bags frozen. When lunchtime came around they were still cool. It worked.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Smiling as I read this. And it brought back a memory for me: Mom used to pack tuna sandwiches for my lunch, too (also wrapped perfectly in wax paper) with potato chips. I didn’t really care for the tuna, so I would take off the top slice of bread and put a layer of potato chips on top of the tuna. That seemed to help make it more palatable.

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    • A friend of mine (who I sadly lost a few years ago) always put the potato chips on the sandwich! Thanks for reminding me of her…. a nice memory!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I thought I was perhaps the only one in the world who did that! I’m glad I was able to bring back a pleasant memory.

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  6. My mom made great sandwiches too…complete with wax paper. My favorite was cheese and olive. I know. Weird. But it’s still my favorite.

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    • I can see that – I do cheese and olives on crackers. And I love chopped green olives in my egg salad sandwich.

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  7. Elizabeth

    OMGosh I love tuna fish with potato chips on the side too! I had to make the lunches for my two brothers and me but the memories! Lunch at school was the best. I only remember high school lunches. Hmmmm? Is that Freudian? Our h.s. lunchroom had a jukebox (I know! so lucky) and Beach Boys or Cryin’Shames would be playing! Sigh….. couldn’t wait to see my friends who had the same lunch hour as me..A,B, or C lunch. Good Times. 🙂

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    • No music in our lunchroom… which held about 400 – and it was unbelievably loud! I don’t have grammar school lunch memories, because I lived just a few blocks away and I went home for lunch – usually a peanut butter sandwich.

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  8. jono51

    The joys of wax paper should not be diminished. And tuna sandwiches. After my mother died my father would sometimes make tuna sandwiches for dinner which I ate while watching the Mickey Mouse Club. I really liked Annette, but didn’t understand why as I was only four.

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    • Your testosterone runs mighty strong there, fella!

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  9. Your post brought back so many wonderful memories. I made my own sandwiches when I was in high school (bologna with mustard and lettuce on squishy white bread – every day) and wrapped them in wax paper just the way your mother did; they were always tucked into a brown paper bag (both the wax paper and the bag were reused every day for at least a week). I was given a dime a day for a half pint of milk, but I would use my allowance and any money earned from babysitting to buy a Vachon “Ah Caramel” or “Jos Louis” cake and a tiny bag of potato chips from the cafeteria as well. I wasn’t a big fan of tuna sandwiches when I was growing up (I like them now), but my Mom made a fabulous tuna casserole with cream of mushroom soup, cashew nuts and Chinese noodles in it and crumbled potato chips on top. YUM!

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    • I made a tuna noodle casserole for my husband one night – when we were first married. He likes everything – but he didn’t like that! (But when I was single, I made it often… I liked that it gave me about 3 good meals. But I used often used cream of celery instead – I am not a mushroom eater.)

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  10. Christine

    I still like sandwiches, and we have tuna salad (with celery and capers) for lunch quite often. Even when I was working I took a sandwich for lunch most days to avoid the higher calorie stuff offered in the cafeteria but I was never able to wrap them a neatly as Mom, so I used the zipper bags. I like the fancy sandwiches you get for lunch in nice restaurants, but our lunch bag basics of egg salad, tuna salad and chopped ham and pickle still taste really good to me.

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    • Oh, chopped ham and pickle! How could I have forgotten to mention that. Tom and I still make that with our ham leftovers!

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  11. I enjoyed reading your post very much. You are quite right, there is nothing better than a tuna salad sandwich on fresh (the super soft, you think it was just made) bread with potato chips. Like you, I no longer eat much bread, nor many sandwiches. But sometimes, you just can’t beat having a good ‘ole sandwich.

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  12. Tuna sandwich, toasted bread, and always a cup of coffee. But you can get sick, believe me. I took one to a meeting on a summer day, left it on a window sill (duh) and didn’t eat till about 1. Got really sick in a few hours, and once it was out of my body again I was ok. Learned my lesson about mayo.

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    • You are the first person to give me a bad mayo story – I expected so many more. So you get the reward! You can have either a Yodel or a RingDing or a Devil Dog!

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  13. Susan

    You brought back memories as you always do! Tuna – at least twice a week, but the best was tuna on a Harvest Bakery Hard Roll (how I miss Harvest Bakery). And Veal Loaf – I loved Muckys Veal Loaf better than just about anything, except their boloney (Paul’s cold meats spoiled me for just about anything else.) Wish I could have some now. Try tuna on Ritz crackers….

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    • i still love veal loaf – we usually go right to Martin Rosol’s in New Britain and buy it direct. Harvest Bakery still around – still doing great hard rolls.

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      • Susan

        They have a on-line store. I’ll have to check it out further when I get home. They ship in freezer packs – I’ll have to see if it’s worth it to get some. Thanks for the name! You just made my day. (It takes so little these days)

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  14. I still do the knife half on the sink thing. You never know. At our grade school the milk was delivered at 7 a.m. and sat on the porch until lunch. I only bought the chocolate milk because white milk was disgusting warm. In the winter it was ok though. We never had peanut allergies either. We were a hardy stock (or the weak ones didn’t survive toddlerhood).

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    • I do the knife thing too. Although now that I have a dog, I usually let him lick the peanut butter off the knife… so if I want more, I need another knife!

      Liked by 1 person

      • The knife is not only good for sandwiches it’s also good for stealing just a little piece of pie or cake. You know, when you are sure you are not going to eat the whole piece but you do.

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        • If you take a full piece a little at a time, you’ve broken the calories… doesn’t count.

          Liked by 1 person

  15. Don’t like tuna sandwiches my brother loves them, like most people have done that with the knife though, I have a thing for toasted sandwiches lately have one most days and no one makes sandwiches as good as mum according to my daughters, hell according to my sisters too they prefer our mum to make their sandwiches because mum does them best.

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    • I like toasted sandwiches too… ham & cheese – but Tuna too!

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  16. You can’t beat a tuna sandwich with potato chips. I had a friend who put the potato chips right on top of the tuna for a satisfying crunch in the middle of the tuna goodness.

    Also happy to know that I am not the only one who has to open an additional can of tuna to share with my kitties. It would be rude of the humans to eat a whole can by themselves.

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    • Between the dog and 2 cats… they can polish off a can by themselves.

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  17. Bodynsoil

    I love sandwhiches too, tuna with chips smashed inside. I laughed about keeping tuna sandwiches without refrigeration; we all survived! I guess it’s like the bumblebee’s ability to fly, if they knew it was improbable they might not attempt it.

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    • No one told us to worry about it, so we were fine.
      Funny how many people like the potato chips INSIDE the sandwich.

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  18. I’m fairly new to your blog, ( I know I know) but loving it! You completely had me until u mentioned Liverwurst. I understand everybody has their thing but come on… we can do better than that right?

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    • Ha! I just had liverwurst on rye with my mom and my sisters today! Great sandwich!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Ray G

    Liverwurst, regardless of the German word origin, is really a poor-person’s pate (excuse my lack of accent over the ‘e’). And a French pate is usually really good. The liverwurst one finds in the supermarket is less-expensive, easier to slice, and just a little less good than the same liver pate.

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  20. I’m still using the wax paper, an homage to Mom who manipulated it like it was origami. And she let me iron crayons in between it so I could have a stained glass window, wha a gal. THX for the memories!

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    • I remember doing something with crayons and waxed paper… I think it was very unsuccessful.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I loved this post almost as much as I love sandwiches! I used to take a tuna-fish sandwich to school every day in a lunchbox that looked like a little red barn. I also had a red plaid book bag. Sigh. Oh — when my sister was hugely preggers we went to Costco and bought a turkey, several boxes of cigarettes (for my Dad) and a couple dozen bottles of wine. We got some looks. xoxoxoxo!

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  22. Tuna salad for lunch was always better than a think slice of mac and cheese loaf which is what I usually got.

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  23. Oh, how I love this post! My mother still makes excellent tuna, chicken, and cheese and pimento sandwiches, though she doesn’t make them as much as she used to–with all her kids either in their 30s or their 40s. I also remember making tomato and cheese sandwiches after reading Harriet the Spy. Soggy with mayo, paper napkin stuck in some places, but still so very good

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