Birthdays for me, and should be for everyone, a special day. I am going to stop here to make an acknowledgement to mothers. I personally feel that they should be celebrated every year on the day of their child’s birth. I mean, they did all the work for 9 months and were not able to have a drink the entire time. My friend Jane is pregnant with her first child and I have a special bottle of Lagavulin, just for her, when she finally pops. Here is to happy birthdays for mothers!


My mother made sure that our birthdays were special. My brother, sisters and I were allowed to pick whatever we wanted to have for dinner.  As we all got older, the requests became more and more involved so eventually we all just ended up going out to eat. My mother was an amazing woman who cheerfully, and tearfully, raised 5 children. Besides having a roof over our heads, and clean clothes to wear, she always made sure we had enough to eat.


I remember asking my mother to wait for until I came home from school so that I could go grocery shopping with her. I suppose that I should have known then the direction that my future would take. To this day I still enjoy walking every aisle in the store, much to the consternation of some recent fellow shoppers. It was fun for me to put things away and organize the shelves. I even got into giving the cupboards an extra wipe or two. Unfortunately my OCD is limited to the kitchen. After shopping we would put water on to boil and I would help her get dinner ready. Even though she was by all reports a wonderful mother, her skills in the kitchen were well . . .  Let us just say that I actually saw her burn water one day and leave it at that.


Like most families I knew, we had a rotating list of menu items for family dinner: Spaghetti; Swiss steak; pork chops; fish my father had caught; Goulash, which was spaghetti with different noodles; Macaroni and cheese, which was Goulash with a different sauce; and tuna casserole. Now to this day I cannot tell you what was so special about my mother’s tuna casserole. I have replicated her recipe exactly and then immediately doctored it up. I do remember that she added little green peas and I especially liked finding them with my fork and mushing them before popping them into my mouth.


Back to birthdays. So each of us children, father included, could ask for anything that we wanted for dinner on our birthday. I remember one time, after I had recently become a teenager, my mother asked me what I wanted for my birthday dinner. “Tuna casserole and chocolate cake.” I replied.  “Vern,” she called to the other room, “would you come in here for a minute?” “Tom, tell your father what you want for your birthday dinner.” “Tuna casserole and chocolate cake.” I repeated. Obviously vexed with my choice, he looked at me, and I swear that his head cocked ever so slightly when he said, “But you could have steak.”  I stuck with my choice and tuna casserole it was. Not being the sharpest knife in the kitchen, it was not until I was sharing this story, many years later, did I realize that my father wanted steak. Poor old dad.


Tuna, to this day, has remained a mainstay for me in my diet and I am particularly fond of the albacore in water. I do look for dolphin safe when it is available. In addition to tuna casserole, I am very fond of tuna salad sandwiches. The ones that I grew up with were plain and nutritious. My ex-wife surprised me by pouring a bit of bread and butter pickle juice into the mix. In later years, I became somewhat well known for my pesto tuna sandwiches served on nutty, grainy sliced bread with sprouts and pickles. But I am happily embarrassed to say that there is a new tuna sandwich in town and it can be found at Provisions, located at 300 Virginia St in Vallejo. As you now know, I consider myself a tuna connoisseur, even ordering Maguro and Spicy Tuna Roll when I eat sushi. But I have to tell you that even my award winning pesto tuna has been bested. Provisions is offering a Tuna and Edamame salad sandwich with spring mix on a light and lovely, crunchy roll. Sorry mom, the tuna sandwich has just grown up. Those of you who know, are aware that this is the creation of Nicole Hodge, owner of League of Chefs. Nicole recently opened her little shop in what used to be an old storage room at her Virginia St kitchen. Slightly formal, warm and comfortable, Provisions is a welcome sight to downtown Vallejo. You can grab your food to go or sit outside on one of two comfortable benches or at a set of cute bistro tables and chairs.


The menu does not stop at tuna, in fact from 11 until 2 everyday, they offer their world famous buttermilk fried chicken sandwich. If you hurry, you just might be able to get the special of the week which is a pulled pork bbq sandwich, offered during the same hours. I find that, whenever I am downtown, I am drawn to Nicole’s shop just to see what is fresh from the oven. Perhaps she will offer up her version of tuna casserole one day. Sorry mom, xo.


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Until next time,


Eat Well and Smile Often


Tommy Judt

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