Miss Vivian’s Tuna Fish Sandwich

Before I get into the recipe, I just want to say that almost EVERYBODY has made, at one time or another in their life, a tuna fish sandwich. Okay, now that that is out of the way, let’s talk.  Because my mother was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, she could cook! Or as they say in the ‘hood, she could “throw down.” I like a lot of things my mama made for me for lunch back in the day, the time when you could walk home for lunch and then go back to school. Long time ago, I know. But anyway, here’s the thing. Couldn’t nobody, I mean nobody, make the tuna   sandwich like my mama did! I know what you may be saying, that it’s “just a damn sandwich.” But to me it was more than that. Now mind you, I’m in elementary school at the time.


(This is a younger me. Not quite the age when I first chowed down on my mama’s tuna sandwiches, but hey, you get the point.)

Of course mom’s sandwiches were bomb, but so was everything she made lol. I remember how, when money got low for us, how she would pretend like we were having this lavish meal to eat for dinner lol.   What did we know, we were just kids living in the Jordan down projects in Watts in the 1960’s https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watts,_Los_Angeles and it seemed pretty lavish to us.   I mean, we used the `good” plates. Now mind you, the meal consisted of the sandwich, home fried potato chips, or sometimes she would cut the potatoes thick-like and fry them in that Cristo cooking grease.  And what meal would be complete back in the day without, you guessed it, kool-aid, usually the red flavored kind. Soo good. I even remember my dad coming through (which was rare) and giving my mom some money to help feed us until she got paid from the domestic work she did for the white people across town.  I remember those days. Those were some tough times back then. A constant struggle for her raising five girls mostly on her own.

Even back then it was hard but she made sure we had the best that she could provide. Even back then, my sisters and I were envied for our fashion and styles. We learned it from our mother. She made sure we had everything and I mean everything we needed. I know that this recipe is an easy one, but not for me it wasn’t.  I started to reminisce about the life my mother had to live, being uneducated (only going to the 5th grade) because her parents had died (still to this day none of us know what happened to them because she never discussed any of that stuff with us. Back in the day, old folks kept everything “secret” SMH). One thing me and my sisters learned early on is how to work and take care of ourselves at an early age. I could cook, sew, shop for groceries (by myself), iron, wash clothes in the old tub washing machine where you had to take a large wooden stick to take the clothes out, hang the wet clothes on the line to dry (no dryers back then and if they did exist, we certainly didn’t know about them). 

All in all, I chose to do this sandwich because of how the sandwich makes me feel while eating it. Made me remember when neighbors were more like a family — everybody working together, community taking care of one another, and everybody knew EVERYBODY.  Sitting outside on hot summer nights, drinking delicious tangy-ass homemade lemonade (the kids were but some of the adults sitting out on those hot nights was gettin’ liquored up lol), maybe carving up a watermelon (yep, I said it, Black folk did like to eat their watermelon sitting out on the porch on a hot summer night). That’s a no-no now, of course, not politically correct (eyeroll here).  Anyway, now that I think back to those times, it was the love for family and a sense of pride and closeness of the community that probably left a good taste in my mouth. Those were the days I still crave, but alas, they are gone forever. Nowadays, you don’t know WHO is living next door to you. Oh, the memories. Okay, well, enough of that. Now, let’s get crackin’ on this recipe so you too can taste the goodness that I know all too well with my mama’s tuna fish recipe.

I am using just her basics because the mayonnaise they used back then, I can never remember the name, and they probably don’t sell it anymore anyway. The other ingredients are what I have used over the years and tweaked to my liking. I think I like tuna fish because it reminds me of her, not that it’s anything magical or wondrous–It’s just our connection while I am eating the sandwich. Now, let’s get it on.

OK, first, gather all of your food for this fantastic sandwich which will feed between 2 to 4 people. And this is what you will need:  

2 (or 3) 6 oz. cans of Chunk Light Tuna in water (I use Chicken of the Sea, but you can use whatever is your preference. I don’t know exactly what brand mom used back then, her recipe just said tuna. (Simple enough)

3 Large Hard-Boiled Eggs

1 Celery Stalk (I chop mine medium-fine)

1/4 chopped red onion* (not in my mama’s original recipe but added by    me years ago; she used white onions, I prefer red)

2 tablespoons of Sweet Pickle Relish (more if needed after you taste; I really dump in about ¼ of a cup and more if I’m feeling adventurous that day lol

½ teaspoon of Onion Powder *  (more if needed after you taste) 

½ teaspoon of Garlic Powder *  (more if needed after you taste)

¼ cup of Mayonnaise (any kind you choose, I use Hillman’s. I also like my tuna more “moist” so I add the ¼ cup.  If you want yours on the dryer side, start out with a tablespoon and work your way up to your taste)

1 tablespoon of Yellow Mustard (the regular french’s brand kind; more if you prefer after you taste)

Scant bit of smoked paprika *

Fresh Lemon Juice (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

* not in my mama’s original recipe; added by moi (me).

OK, Let’s Do This: 

  • Get the eggs going 
  • Start your eggs in room temperature water, with the water completely submerging the eggs in the pot, then bring the water to a slow boil for about 10 minutes.  After that, increase your heat a little higher until you see the eggs slowly start to boil (another 10 minutes or until you see the water mid-rapidly boiling). Don’t boil the eggs too long or it will surely take away from the taste of the eggs;  makes them too dry. Turn off the heat after said time, dump the hot water in the sink and replace the hot water with cold water in the pot. Let the eggs cool by themselves sitting in the cold water while you get crackin’ on the rest of the ingredients:

  • Open the cans of tuna and squeeze out ALL of the liquid.  I usually put on those surgical gloves you can get from the .99 cents store and really squeeze away until no liquid comes out.  I mean really squeeze (like you’re trying to choke out that person that has been bothering you all day (just kidding). But for real. And now that you got that out of your system…
  • Place tuna in a bowl
  • Add your spices-

Smoked Paprika, onion powder and garlic powder (add salt and pepper at the end, not now)  

  • Okay, next, add your veggies- 

Celery and red onions

  • Now, check to see if your eggs are completely cooled.  If so, chop however you want (mine are medium fine), and add to the bowl (but only if completely cooled because they will cut up better for you)


  • Next, Get a clean fork and smush (mix) everything together.  

Now, add the holy grail of sweet pickle relish, mayo and mustard and blend well (one at a time, though)

  • Salt and pepper to taste. 
  • This is where you add more of whatever you think you need more of after the official taste test. I added more of everything because I like more of a robust flavoring in my tuna (don’t judge me 👀). Oh, and I forgot, just if you want a little “twang,” I squeeze in some fresh lemon juice after everything, and stir it up. You may want to put a small portion of the tuna in a separate container to see if you like it with the lemon, if you don’t like it, the rest of your tuna won’t have it in there. 


And, Voila! That’s it! You can spread this oh so good deliciousness on bread or crackers or rolled in lettuce for you low-carbers.  I prefer mine with celery sticks really (right now I do because I didn’t have any bread in the house when I prepared this lol). And salty chips and Ooo don’t forget that tangy, homemade, fresh squeezed lemonade. Yes ma’am.

Honey chile, enjoy!

Hope you enjoy this just as much as I do. I make this when I want to feel happiness and comfort. 

I pull out the old picture album books (remember those) , eat my sandwich, drink my lemonade and reminiscence.

There’s nothing sweeter.

Hey, Some Fun Facts:

What exactly is tuna?

A tuna  (also called tunny) is a saltwater fish belonging to the tribe Thunnini, a subgrouping of the mackerel family.

Who Invented the sandwich and why?

It is said that John Montagu, a gambler and the 4th Earl of sandwich, is the inventer. His reasoning being was that he did not want to leave the gambling table to eat, so he placed all of the meal, consisting of his meat and veggies, in between his bread and chowed down.  Hey, the guy was lazy, but what can I say. 

Who invented the tuna fish sandwich?

It was invented by Henry Tuna in 1944. A tuna fish sandwich, a tuna salad sandwich, or tuna sandwich, is a type of sandwich usually made with tuna salad and includes ingredients such as mayonnaise and celery.

Check out some of the different types of tuna fish (or fishes?) below:

Thunnus obesus (Bigeye Tuna) -Often confused with the yellowfin; has fins edged in black; larger eyes; more robust body shape with striped or streaked liver.

Thunnus alalunga (Albacore Tuna) -has longest pectoral fins and lightest, whitest flesh of any tuna.

Thunnus orientalis (Bluefin Tuna) -Largest and most expensive of tuna, and can live up to 40 years in the ocean.

Thunnus Thynnus (Bluefin) – King of tunas; mature in 6 years, around 300 pounds.

Katsuwonus pelamis (Skipjack Tuna) -Distinct lower horizontal stripes; found in all temperate and tropical seas; forms huge schools; is the most canned of tunas.

Thunnus tonggol (Longtail Tuna) -Popular gamefish in Australia; labeled northern bluefin even though not a species of bluefin.

Thunnus albacore (Yellowfin Tuna) -Bright yellow finlets; fished tropically around the world; grows 200 pounds in 7 years; 

Did you know that canned light tuna is better and lower in mercury than canned white (albacore) and yellowfin tuna? Well it is according to the FDA (Federal Department of Agriculture) and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Canned white (albacore) tuna and yellowfin are higher in mercury, but ok to eat sparingly because of the mercury percentage they each have in them. Bigeye tuna, they say, should be avoided completely.


Prezi. (n.d.). The History of the Sandwich. Retrieved from https://prezi.com/ybqb7iisthc-/the-history-of-the-sandwich/




The Sandwich That Started It All®. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://earlofsandwichusa.com/who-we-are/




Woodward, C., Migdalski, T., Olander, D., Staley, T., Frederiksen, P., & Waters, S. (n.d.). An Illustrated Guide to Types of Tuna. Retrieved from https://www.sportfishingmag.com/tunas-world-an-illustrated-guide/


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