TheEat: Cream of tuna and peas, a comforting dish with a rich past | Arts and culture


A few weeks ago, when Maggy Button stopped by the office to share some of the articles she had recently made for her column, especially the marbled cake made with Hostess cupcakes and beef fudge (that’s ingenious You can’t taste leftover beef.), She mentioned a dish, salmon with peas, that she had just learned on a lunch trip. As she described the dish – salmon and peas in a white sauce served on savory crackers – and mentioned that the tuna would be an easy substitute, a few of us seemed surprised she never had ate either version of this dish. Made with tuna and peas, it is more commonly known as creamed tuna, creamed fried tuna, or tuna sauce.

It is often considered a Depression Era dish, mainly due to its low cost ingredients, ability to stretch the dish with little effort, and versatility (you can serve it on crackers, cookies, toast, rice, noodles or in a casserole of tuna noodles.) many tables, canned salmon was a cheap commodity, and tuna was still considered a sport fish.

According to “Routledge History of American Foodways,” American cupboards were, at one point, considered bare if they didn’t contain a tin or two of salmon, once plentiful and cheaper than beef, pork, and chicken. Salmon, he said, was made into breads, patties, cakes and donuts or bound with a white sauce. In New England, where salmon and peas have been a long-standing tradition, a salmon pea stir makes perfect sense.

Reading articles on American eating habits, I discovered that tuna, although first canned in 1903, and hailed by cookbook authors as a “simulated chicken” in the 1920s, would not become a major staple of the American diet until after World War II, after sonar and radar opened up fishing for tuna and other Atlantic fish. The popularity of creamed tuna arose, according to many food historians, because not only were its canned ingredients cheap, but also because the dish was quick and easy to prepare, an attribute highly prized by locals. Americans in the 1940s and 1950s.

To me, it’s a comfort food from my childhood that just tastes great no matter how you serve it.


Creamed tuna on toast on a plate

Cream of tuna, also known as crispy tuna with cream or tuna sauce, began as a dish made from canned salmon, which at the time was cheaper than tuna, beef, chicken or fish.

Makes 4 servings


1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 to 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups of milk or almond milk

One 7-ounce can tuna, drained

1/2 to 1 can of peas


In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat; stir in flour, salt and pepper. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes.

Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble.

Add the drained tuna and cooked peas. Continue heating and stirring until heated through.

Serve the creamed tuna over saltines, toast, cookies or rice.


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