It wasn’t everyday but many many days I had tuna salad for lunch. I can take it back to pre-school sitting on the floor in front of our black and white tv watching Romper Room eating mayo heavy tuna on crustless white bread sandwich quarters, and move it forward to middle school when I started making my own school lunches or to high school when it was on toasted whole wheat with added tomato slices, red onion, capers and a layer of crumbled potato chips to keep the bread from getting soggy.
So few are the memories of cooking with my mother I can count them on my fingers. She taught me to squeeze the water from grated potatoes before frying latkes, to shape meatballs by rolling them between my hands as if they were balls of clay, to pull creamed spinach from a boil-in-bag with bamboo toaster tongs so as not to waste any and also not to burn my fingers, and to finely dice celery for tuna.
Celery was a refrigerator staple. She used it in soups and stews, used the leaves in salad, and fed us stalks filled with cream cheese for snack. I was fascinated by the dirt nestled in the root ends, the fibrous threads, the two part procedure of cutting strips the length of the stalk and then bundling them for the perpendicular cut to dice.
I married a man who didn’t eat mayonnaise and my children wouldn't eat fish so I stopped making tuna salad and ate it only rarely at luncheonettes where it was always disappointing.
A few weeks after my mother died I made some. I bought imported cruelty-free tuna packed in oil and put it in one of her bowls. I paid special attention to the celery and added onion diced the way she showed me. Once the sandwich was made I couldn’t wait long enough to snap a photo, couldn’t even get it on a plate. From kitchen counter to mouth, then whoosh I was teleported to when I loved my mother and she fed me and nothing else mattered. My hands could barely get the sandwich into me fast enough.