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The Frugal Buffet

Adventures in Grocery Shopping

Part 38: On Tomatoes/On Tuna Salad Sandwiches
I often wonder how terrible life must have been before the Columbian Exchange, when only a small number of people in the world were able to enjoy the wonderfulness of tomatoes.  I have also long pitied those poor English people who used to think that tomatoes were poisonous.

One thing that I noticed a long time ago about tomatoes is that there is a huge price range among tomatoes, but a relatively small range of quality. The more expensive tomatoes, to me, are no better than the cheaper ones. On the contrary, I often find the cheapest ones to be better. They tend to have harder skin, which I like, both because of the texture and because of the fact that it means the tomatoes last longer. I bought some 79-cents-per-pound tomatoes about a week ago and ate one today that was quite delicious. Why people would ever buy tomatoes for $5 a pound is beyond me. I usually only buy them when they drop below a dollar a pound, although when I really want tomatoes, I am willing to spend $1.99 a pound, or sometimes a little more.

When it comes to tomatoes I believe that size matters very much. An ideal tomato, for me, is just big enough for one sandwich. When I use half of a tomato, one of two bad things happens. Either a) the other half goes bad before I can eat it, or b) it gets soggy before I can eat it and it is not nearly as good as the first half. So I like getting relatively small tomatoes when I can. Not too small. Bigger than the cherry and grape tomatoes. But on the smaller side. Cherry and grape tomatoes do have other uses that are nice, but the thing I use tomatoes for most frequently is sandwiches, and when I use cherry or grape tomatoes on a sandwich, it involves too much work, and then they end up shooting juice out at me as I bite into them. When I cook with tomatoes, I usually use canned tomatoes.

The tomato that I just ate was the perfect size. I ate it on a tuna salad sandwich, and when the tomato was sliced, it fit into the sandwich perfectly.

I love tomatoes on tuna salad sandwiches.

I have some other strong opinions about tuna salad sandwiches, will I will share now.

For one thing, I like the tuna to be either on good, fresh bread (or bagels), or, if it is not on good, fresh bread, I like for it to be on whole grain supermarket bread. Wonder Bread doesn't go very well with tuna.

For another thing, I want the bread to be toasted. This is definitely not an opinion of mine when it comes to other kinds of sandwiches (much to the surprise of those people who say, "toasted?" expecting a "yes" answer when they are cooking a burger or something for me, and I say, "No thanks.") There's something about toasted bread that I find really complements the taste of tuna salad.

Another opinion of mine regarding tuna salad is that it shouldn't be too complicated. People are always putting onions and relish and spices and things like that in it. I'm not saying that these additions don't taste good (they usually do), but only that they don't taste nearly as good as tuna, mayo, and celery (and maybe a little lemon if I am in the mood for it) alone. I also am of the opinion that melted cheese, though delicious, takes away from the overall tuna-licious taste. Another issue for me with the melted cheese is that the way people usually do it involves heating the tuna salad as well, and I like my tuna on the cooler side.

Now, take this simple tuna salad, put it on some nice toasted bread, with a lot of tomato (one whole tomato that is not too big and not too expensive), and you have yourself a good tuna sandwich.

Something else that occurred to me earlier this year regarding tuna salad is that I should make it in bulk. There are three reasons for this. For one thing, it means less work. For another, it means that after I do the work, I can have the tuna salad whenever I want it. Lastly, it means that the tuna is refrigerated instead of being room temperature (and I prefer my tuna cooled).

Well, I believe that is it for today, my friends. I hope you have a good sandwich.