I was pretty old when I first saw a real tuna fish. I had been eating canned tuna for years, but never knew what it looked like before it was diced up. Turns out tuna are huge – much bigger than I expected. Not, you know, whale shark big, but sizable nonetheless. A fish to be reckoned with. No wonder dolphins kept getting caught in tuna nets: dolphins and tuna probably hang out all the time, down in the sea.
Canned tuna fish was my lunch from middle school all the way through college and a few years afterward. The tuna sandwich was my calling card. If I wanted to get all fancy I’d add lettuce or cucumbers, but usually a few slices of bread was all I’d need. It was low-maintenance yet more exotic than peanut butter & jelly. Plus you don’t want to overdo the number of times you have peanut butter in one meal: crackers, apples, celery. Best to spread these things out a little.
I am ashamed to admit I ate it with mayonnaise. You do what you need to survive in these hard times. After many years of experimentation, I found the golden ratio of tuna to mayo: too little and the flakes of fish would fall everywhere, too much and you’re eating a mayo sandwich. I couldn’t tell you in grams, but I’d know the correct proportion if I saw it.
I can’t eat tuna anymore or I’ll die. At least, that’s what I decided a few years after college. I started getting these stomach aches after lunch, and by process of elimination, I eliminated all the things I was eating for lunch at the time. My body was telling me that I’d reached my lifetime limit of mercury, and if I have one more bite of canned tuna I will die from mercury poisoning. I’m like a ticking time bomb or Rocky. One more hit and it’s all over.
Once you’ve consumed your lifetime limit of any given food, you have to move on. Fortunately my body warned me before shutting down completely. Now I live my life, chock full of deadly mercury, but happy still. I can’t ever get pregnant, but that’s the kind of tradeoff you make when you enjoy delicious tuna fish.
I just hope I don’t reach my lifetime limit of eggs. I really like eggs.
One year in high school I submitted a t-shirt design for my swim team; it was a can of tuna fish. A drawing, not an actual can – this wasn’t conceptual art. It got voted down unanimously. My swim team, like my girlfriend later, did not see the comic potential in a can of tuna fish. You either see it or you don’t, I guess.
Have you ever been to Costco and seen that huge can of tuna fish they sell? I used to think it was made up of thousands of individual fish, but now I know that number is probably more like 2.
I always wanted to buy that can and take it home and not ever open it. It would have been a decoration, a conversation-starter. This was before I moved in with a girlfriend. Some bachelors decorate with beer bottles or posters of Dave Matthews Band. I wanted to have this giant can of tuna fish in the center of my studio apartment.
Once I moved in with a girl, however, that dream was over. Girls ask too many uncomfortable questions. Explaining the humor would have made it instantly unfunny. I don’t know, maybe I find too many things funny. It could be my fatal flaw. That and the mercury poisoning.
I do miss eating tuna fish. I went through a phase where I made sandwiches with lunch meat. I’d put avocado and mustard on them, but they got boring pretty quick. Then I ate out for lunch; that was unhealthy and expensive (but tasty).
I haven’t found one single thing to replace the Chicken of the Sea. Some days I have soup, some days the aforementioned eggs. I always admired the people who made a lasagna on Sunday and brought in pieces of it all week long. Seems like a lot of work but then you have something to look forward to all morning. Nobody looks forward to a cold sandwich, a piece of fruit, and some crackers.
Tuna fish must be my spirit animal. Even though I no longer eat it, the tuna guides me through life’s obstacles. It must be a good guide because I’ve had a good life so far.