I always enjoyed my mother's tuna salad. Sometimes we stuffed tomatoes with it and served it on a lettuce leaf; sometimes we used it as a filling for sandwiches putting a lettuce leaf in there too. I especially enjoyed a serving on my plate all by itself which I forked onto saltine crackers and ate, one after the other -- enjoyed most if accompanied by sweet iced-tea and plenty of lemon. Ah, memories! So many memories are linked to food.
My favorite memory of a meal like that is of my grandfather. Our house was next door to my grandparent's house on Grandfather's farm. I spent a lot of time at their house. More than once I saw Granddaddy (as I called him) eating salmon salad, with crackers, and big glasses of iced-tea with fragrant lemons. They didn't make it with tuna like mother did, actually, sometimes mother made it with canned salmon, too, bones and all, she said the calcium was good for us. Crunchy pecans camouflaged crunchy bones, could hardly tell they were in there.
Granddaddy worked hard on the farm and when he ate his meal described above he ate with apparent relish... and smacking! That fascinated me; we were not allowed to smack at my father's table. Did Granddaddy make it look good! Then I would go home and ask mother to make some for us.
On the farm were a few wild pecan trees that gave the sweetest, fullest, juiciest, though small, pecans. It was an annual ritual to gather them up, and the shelling went on for what seemed like forever. We always had plenty of pecans. I think of that when I see packages of shelled pecans in the grocery store priced at, or above, $6.00 a pound. Mother used them every way she could think of, she even put them in the tuna salad. I remembered that today when I made mine without pecans. Mine was good, but not as good as mother's... the pecans were missing; there is something about the blend of flavors with pecans that makes it extra good.
Mother never put grated onion in hers because my father didn't like onion, but I have eaten tuna salad made by other people that seemed to have a tiny bit of grated onion, and I think a little fresh onion flavor added to it is good. But, today I made mine like mother made hers, except I had no pecans. (Actually, I forgot the pickle, too, but can add it tomorrow.)
Here is the way I like to make it:
16 oz., or larger, can of water packed white tuna
4 hard boiled eggs chopped
A large handful of stuffed olives cut up but not too small (depends on the size of olives, small ones can just be halved)
3 or 4 sweet (cucumber) pickles chopped
1 small fresh apple or 1/2 large, chopped (peeled or unpeeled - your choice)
3 or 4 ribs of celery chopped - depending on size
1/2 cup of broken pecans
Grated carrot (just a little to make it pretty, and it's good for us)
A goodly shake of black pepper - or to taste.
We do not add salt, the olives are salty, and celery is tasty and high sodium.
We use Kraft's Miracle Whip salad dressing, but you use mayonnaise if that is your preference. I used 3 heaping tablespoons.
Stir together well. Then it's ready.
I think it is better the second day. I like it for breakfast. When I went back to college at age 40, I made a point to eat it for breakfast if I had an exam or studio presentation and critique that day. I truly believe it helped. Our four teenagers teased me and told me tuna is an "upper". I thought they were just playing with me and giving me a hard time, but they could be right. It seemed to work.