I HATE TUNA fish. It all goes back to the way my sisters and I learned to cook. Our mother sensibly believed in introducing us to kitchen craft in our early years, and as the eldest I was the first to begin lessons, at about the age of 7. Mother began with a no-cooking recipe, tuna fish salad. It was the classic recipe, tuna fish, mayo, chopped celery and seasoned salt. As time went on I progressed to the point where I was allowed to use the stove and eventually, unsupervised, I was preparing complete meals. Frances, the next oldest, was in due time inducted into the family's culinary ranks and soon the two of us were alternating cooking the evening meal.
By the time Anne, the youngest child, reached the milestone age of 7, the teaching system hit a snag. Our mother had gone back to work fulltime, and Anne's cooking lessons got sidetracked in the process. Mother had taught Anne how to make tuna fish salad, but nothing beyond that initial recipe. Meanwhile, Anne had been given the Saturday lunch assignment, and for what seemed like an interminable time we were presented with a fresh batch of tuna fish salad every Saturday at noon.
The tuna torment finally became more than we could bear. "NO MORE TUNA" became the siblings' rallying cry. We never wanted to see tuna fish again. Frances and I took the matter firmly[$99 Source omitted from TEXT] cooking lessons had ended. In time all three of us were relatively competent cooks, but cooks with deep repulsions to tuna. No matter how tuna fish was prepared, it always seemed to taste like the tuna fish salad that had haunted our Saturday lunches. But we knew, deep in our hearts, that it would be impossible to ignore tuna fish forever.
So began the search for the Ultimate Tuna Fish Recipe. Its description was simple: it had to be a tuna main dish that didn't taste like tuna.
We poured over cookbooks. We cream-sauced, we cayenned, we casseroled, we curried. Nothing worked -- everything tasted like jazzed-up tuna. Very definable tuna. The intermittent search progressed for 10 long years. One college vacation when I arrived home, Anne gave me a smug smile.
"I've got it," she announced and waved a small piece paper in my face. "The Ultimate Tuna Fish Recipe.
"It's not going to be cheap," she warned me.
It didn't matter. Anything for the pleasure of eating a main-dish tuna recipe that didn't taste like tuna.
The recipe (from a now forgotten magazine), turned out to have the depressing name of Tuna and Prunes. "Don't these magazines have any imagination?" Anne complained. "Who could tell a family that dinner would be tuna and prunes and expect anyone to show up? We'll have to rename it." Anne stared at the concoction.
"I have it," she stated majestically. "We'll call it Beige et Noir."
The dinner was an unqualified success. Everyone devoured the Beige et Noir with obvious pleasure.
"But what is it, really?" our father asked.
"Tuna and prunes," we answered. He raised his eyebrows but kept on eating.
Beige et Noir was indeed a delicious success. It didn't taste like tuna fish. Anne was right, and the 10-year search had ended. If you've got your own tuna phobias and would like to give Beige et Noir a try, the recipe follows. BEIGE ET NOIR (Tuna and Prunes) (4 to 6 servings) 1 cup dried pitted prunes 1 cup dry white wine 1 cup light cream or half-and-half 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1 egg yolk 2 cans (6 1/2-or 7-ounce size) tuna, drained 1 can (6 ounces) button mushrooms, drained
Place prunes and wine in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Drain, returning wine to saucepan.
Beat cream, flour and egg yolk together until all lumps disappear and the mixture is very smooth. Stir into saucepan and bring to a boil. Then stir in tuna (which has been separated into large pieces), mushrooms and prunes. When all the ingredients are heated through, serve on buttered toast or in pastry shells.