Yucking It Up: Waffles, Tuna, and Cup O’Noodles

Ad in Better Homes & Gardens, 1954 (photo from MidcenturyMenu.com)

I’m still thinking about “disgusting” foods from my last Andy’s Corner, so Ann’s blog title Waffling on Waffles spurred me to do a little web surfing to see if I could find a waffle recipe with yuck potential. I hit pay dirt when I came across the 1954 Campbell’s Soup ad (pictured above) with a recipe for Tuna ‘N Waffles. No offense to those who may find this appetizing, but the thought of canned tuna mixed with cream of mushroom soup and sliced stuffed olives poured over waffles registers pretty high on my yuck-worthy scale.

I grew up in the hay day of Campbell’s-Cream-of-Mushroom-Soup-In-Every-Recipe, so I can’t blame my aversion to this dish on any underlying cultural biases. But my negative reaction does seem to jive in some ways with Jiayang Fan’s discussion of how people from one culture may react to unfamiliar food of another culture. You may recall that I alluded to Fan’s New Yorker article in the previous Andy’s Corner. Her description of what it is like to be a new immigrant is of particular interest for today’s blog:

To be a new immigrant is to be trapped in a disgusting-food museum, confused by the unfamiliar and unsettled by the familiar-looking. The firm, crumbly white blocks that you mistake for tofu are called feta. The vanilla icing that tastes spoiled is served on top of potatoes and is called sour cream. At a certain point, the trickery of food starts to become mundane. Disgusting foods become regulars in the cafeteria, and at the dinner table.

When I told our food-writer daughter, Sara, about what I was planning to write she suggested that I ask her close friend Jina, who immigrated to the U.S. from Korea as a little girl, about some of her first experiences with American food. Evidently, Jina’s experience with her first tuna fish sandwich was similar to how many Americans react to their first time with kimchi.

So, I emailed Jina and asked if she would be willing to share her story. She graciously accepted my request. Here is what she had to say:

It was my first camping trip ever and it was with The Girl Scouts or Brownies.  It was a 2 night sleepover and the first night, they asked everyone to bring a tuna fish sandwich or cup o’noodles.  I was like “EEWWW, tuna fish sandwich?!?!  What the heck is that?” I just imagined a piece of fish on bread.  YUCK.  I did not know it was some ground up can thing with mayo (which I was kinda suspicious about).  

I’d been in the States maybe 2 or 3 years tops.  And I’d never had a Cup O’noodle but I’d seen those.  So I brought a CON (cup o’noodle).  I was so green (or stupid) that I didn’t know you just poured hot water straight into the cup.  I had already started peeling off the styrofoam and was halfway through before one of the girls was like “What are you doing? You can’t pour water in it now!”  I was so embarrassed and self conscious.  

Anyway, the camp leader gave me a tuna fish sandwich and then I saw someone pouring water into CON and MIND BLOWN.  I liked the tuna fish sandwich AND I couldn’t believe the CON technology. 

I’m sad for me and laughing while I read this.  Back then, there was no cultural awareness nor sensitivity.  I just wanted to fit in.

I also gagged and vomited a little the first time I had mustard.  So bad.

Jina’s story adds credence to Fan’s suggestion that over time “disgusting foods” may become “regulars in the cafeteria, and at the dinner table.” In other words, the saying that familiarity breeds contempt doesn’t necessarily apply when it comes to food. It may be more apt to say that familiarity with food breeds acceptance.

In the spirit of narrowing the cultural food divide so well expressed by Jina I am including this recipe I found for a Kimchi Tuna Salad Sandwich.

Can this sandwich narrow the cultural food divide?

And finally, even though I posted a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon in the previous Andy’s Corner, I couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to close this post than by yucking it up a bit.

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson, Nov. 6, 1989

Kimchi Tuna Salad Sandwich

  • Servings: 2 sandwiches
  • Print

Adapted from Mealthy.com

  • 1 1/2 T mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp sriracha sauce sauce, or more to taste
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 (6 ounce) can albacore tuna in water
  • 2 T finely chopped kimchi
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 slices sandwich bread, toasted
  • 1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Stir together the mayonnaise, sriracha, lime juice and soy sauce in a medium bowl. Add the drained tuna, chopped kimchi and scallion, and mix in thoroughly. Allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.

Divide the tuna salad onto two pieces of toasted sandwich bread. Top with avocado slices, cilantro, and the second piece of bread. Enjoy immediately!

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

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