Do you believe tarragon, pickle relish and tuna salad can make a difference in someone’s life? They can, and they did for me.
At my ninth grade commencement from Placerita Junior High, I gave a speech that began with, “Veni, Vedi, Vici.” I then co-opted the phrase to mean, “We came, we saw, we conquered.” I added the Latin because it sounded smart and back then, surviving junior high was the equivalent of conquering the world.
After the ceremony, my mom took me to a small cafe in “The Valley” for a special lunch. And being fourteen, I ordered something familiar, dependable. Tuna salad. With four+ kids at home, we made the mixture quite a bit and we always followed the same recipe.
– Canned tuna (with salt)
– Lots of mayo
– Lots of pickle relish, until the goop morphed into mayo-relish.
– Slather more mayo on squishy bread and then spread the tuna in a thin layer.
Imagine my shock when the sandwich I’d ordered for lunch was different! Served in a croissant, the salad had no pickle relish and just enough mayo to coat the fish and the roll, all topped with tomato slices. My tastebuds could actually pick out both the flavor of the tuna and the buttery, chewiness of the croissant. Plus, I noticed an unfamiliar spice.
It got me thinking. I’d always been a literal kid, did what I was asked, believed what I was told. And tuna salad was made one way (see previous family recipe). But if this staple of life could be altered, what else? Realistically, my teen brain probably worried, “Holy Partridge Family! We’ve been making this wrong all along. Are we even less cool than I imagined?”
Looking back, it seems a little silly, but the gist of the realization set in. I remember the moment, and the knowledge eventually helped me understand how things I’d assumed were set-in-stone might be open to change.
That aha should have been enough for one lunch. Or maybe not. I also complained to my mom about never knowing the name of the mystery spice. This was, after all, in the chef’s secret recipe.
And then she surprised me. Mom suggested I simply ask the waitress to ask the chef. He might answer or he might not. When the waitress reported the spice was tarragon, I learned that little ol’ me could speak up – outside of home and school – ask questions of adults and expect to have them answered.
Had this option been explained to me before, but I’d only clued in after this tuna experience cemented it into my brain? Honestly, I don’t know. I probably never will.
Okay, tarragon is technically the only spice in this story, but when I chose to include pickle relish as a spice, it gave me a better title for my blog post. And that’s part of what I learned that day. Not only could things be changed, but I could drive that change and maybe use it to my advantage. And if that doesn’t give a kid going into tenth grade a little self-esteem, I ask you, what would?
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