This is the salad that my gramma, or someone else's gramma, always prepared at hundreds of Methodist church basement potluck fellowships when I was small. 50th anniversaries, retirements, organist recognitions, boy scout troop bible studies, piano concerts... always in the basement, always the same food.
Note well: Gramma never measures.
1 package 'salad macaroni' noodles
(...must be the really short kind, like 1/4 the length of elbow macaroni)
3/4 package frozen petite peas
2 cans tuna
4 big scoops of mayonnaise
3 big squirts of 'bumpy' mustard
(none of that bright yellow shit)
5-7 hearty shakes 'seasoning salt'
(...I prefer the kind with cumin from the fresh tortilla place)
some celery seed
lemon juice, salt, freshly ground black pepper, tobasco... all to taste
(...for nice 'kicky' salad. leave these out for true Midwestern Bland style)
really good pickles
(...about as many as you can hold in one hand, and chopped into small bits)
Some people put in chopped black olives, but that's a little bit too
fancy for us. the quality mustard and pickles are the only 'fanciful' things
I've allowed to creep in to Gramma's recipe.
Start the water boiling and throw a bunch of salt in it. At full boil, dump in the
whole package of macaroni. Now stir it! You must return to the macaroni and
stir it throughout this whole procedure. Failure to do so will result in
While you are waiting... open the cans of tuna and squeeze all the liquid out.
It will not do to have the tuna less than dry, compact, and flaky.
Oil or water: get it all out.
- Stir the noodles!
Now, if you have enough pans, you could start the peas boiling. You don't
necessarily want to cook the peas, just get them warm all the way through
(remember, they're cooked before being frozen). If you don't have enough pans,
you'll have to wait until the noodles come out. This is fine, and it will only
make you 10 minutes late.
Scrape the compacted tuna out of the cans, into a medium mixing bowl.
Rinse and recycle the cans.
Your noodles may be done by now. Check them. Don't forget to stir!
(You have been stirring occasionally, haven't you?)
If the noodles aren't tender yet, go smoke half a cigarette. Then they will be done
Now that the noodles are done, drain them and leave them in the strainer in the sink.
By this time your peas are surely thawed, if not boiling; dump them into the
cooling noodles, and start rinsing. Make sure nobody has their hands in the
noodles when you drain the boiling peas. Keep rinsing everything with cold water
from the sink. Make sure you shake it all around and swish your hand through, so
everything gets some of the cold water. You're doing this now so the noodles
won't stick toghether in a big clump.
Important: just as with the tuna, you must get all the water out. Shake and
toss and whack against the edge of the sink until no more water comes out. Nothing
ruins a macaroni salad like too much moisture. Dump this stuff into a huge bowl.
Somewhere along the way, you should have scooped the mayonnaise, and sqirted
or scraped the good mustard into the medium bowl on top of the tuna. I'm sure
you started to stir it up too, since you've been so dilligent about stirring the
noodles this whole time. You might find that forking the tuna helps break up the
hunks. I don't really think big hunks of tuna are very good in a macaroni salad.
At this point you should have cooling noodles and peas, and some very well
integrated tuna/mayo/mustard glop. You'll want to start tasting and seasoning
the tuna glop.
Use lemon juice, fresh ground pepper, Tobasco, seasoning salt... until the tuna
glop tastes like it has a 'real kick'. Not like 4 stars Thai food though; more along
the lines of bottled ranch style dressing or something. Remember: this is mixing in with a
buttload of noodles and peas. Taste, season, stir and repeat.
When the tuna glop has you smacking your lips, scrape it into the huge bowl of noodles
and peas. Get as much scraped off the walls of the bowl as you can. It's yummy!
Move your huge bowl to a surface with lots of clean space to catch flying noodles.
Now, using two really big spoons, start to integrate the tuna glop with the noodles
and peas. Keep turning and flopping the mixture until it is of a uniformity that would
pass a 4 year old's muster.
Cover the bowl with plastic cling wrap and stick it in the fridge.
Keep tasting the salad every 15 minutes until it's time to leave for the potluck.
At least two hours for the flavors to really mingle.
Authenticity Note: if you really want this to taste like my gramma's be sure to use salad macaroni
that have been in a mason jar for at least three years; make sure the Tabasco sauce is old
enough to be brown; use mayonnaise you have to stir until it looks like mayonnaise again; use
the can of celery seed that is all in one clump.