Tuna Casserole

When I was eight years old, I was already interested in helping my Mom in the kitchen. We would bake cookies, pies, and breads together. Occasionally, I came home from school and was greeted by the smell of fresh baked bread as I opened the door and stepped into the kitchen. Nothing made me happier and I would devour a piece (or two), unaware that I was humming as I ate. I learned how to grow sprouts from seeds and loved helping in our vegetable garden too-from planting to harvesting to eating the fruits of our labor.

Our family always ate breakfast together. Lunch was packed with nutritious sandwiches (homemade bread, homemade mayo, homegrown sprouts), fresh fruit and a smiley face drawn by my Mom on the paper napkin. Dinner we were together again as a family and I liked my Mom’s cooking-for the most part.

One particular meal I dreaded was “Tuna Casserole”. This dish consisted of canned white albacore tuna fish and frozen peas baked in a cream sauce and topped with tater tots then finished under the broiler. Before it was even served one night, the disappointment of the chosen entree caused my eight year old self to equate this to the end of the world. “You need to take a ‘no thank you’ helping” was enough to start the alligator tears. The fishy smell wafted up my nostrils as the plate of casserole was delivered on the placemat before me. I pushed it around, crying so hard that I began to hyperventilate. Finally, my Mom suggested that if I was going to cry, I could excuse myself and go cry in my room behind a closed door. As I got up, in between dramatic sobs, and in all sincerity, I announced, “When I....grow up......I’m for this.....recipe!”

I’m all grown up now and I became a chef in my early twenties. For every one tuna casserole moment, there were countless fresh baked bread after school moments which inspired my interest in cooking professionally. Just for the record (and good to my word) I never did ask my Mom for that recipe!



TraditionZoe Bartlett