Hearty tuna salad (April 5, 2011)

By Joseph M. Donadieu

Not long ago, my wife Phyllis had to leave home by 7 a.m. one day to get her mother to a doctor’s appointment and left me home alone with the cat. As anyone who has just a passing acquaintance with cats knows, morning is the time for food, and let there be no confusion.

Early in the a.m., Kashi will go to the most extraordinary lengths to get attention – and food. She’ll meow and meow, rub against your legs, run out in front of you to get entangled in your feet, knock small items from end tables, sit in doorways, tip over vases with flowers.

Nothing, however, compares with the cat’s (any cat’s) reaction to opening a can of tuna fish. No matter where she is – in a window watching the birds, on a chair sleeping away, or under a bedspread hidden from all the world – she’ll come running pell-mell the distance of the house when she hears the can opener press into the metal of the can.

From that point the scene is one of mayhem as she alternately stretches her body up the side of the cupboard, walks around in frantic circles, rubs up against your legs, all the while calling out with all the passion she can rouse.

And, of course, the gratitude of a cat lasts from the time the tuna or the water from the can is placed in a dish until the dish is securely placed on the floor.

Animal behavior is animal behavior, but the feline excitement for tuna leads me to think of the words of the psalmist in Psalm 42: “Like the deer that long for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.”

My image of the deer that longs for running water is hardly that of the frenzied feline circus, but something more placid, serene and dignified.

Yet the plaintive words of the psalmist coming from the depths of his heart reach out over the centuries to touch my own with a spark of recognition. “Like the deer that longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My being thirsts for God, the living God…”

The psalmist finds himself far from Jerusalem and the Temple where he experienced the presence of God in the Temple worship.

The longing of the psalmist is a thirst that is an essential part of our human nature. As St. Augustine wrote: “Our hearts, O Lord, are restless until they rest in you.”

God has created us in love from the dust of the earth and breathed into us the breath of life and we long to be with him, to be in his presence.

Unlike the psalmist, we know that God is always present to us. We can look at the wonders and beauties of the world and see the handiwork of our Creator and know that we are in the presence of God. God is present to us in the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of his Son who gave his life for us on the cross and left us with an everlasting memorial under the signs of bread and wine; God is present to us in his word of Scripture, his self-revelation to his people Israel. God is present to us in the Sacraments and the ministry of his Church, and he is present to us in his people.

This hunger and thirst that we experience is part of who we are, but as beings who are body and soul, physical and spiritual in nature, we sometimes go astray and try to fill our spiritual hunger by physical means that are ultimately harmful to us.

But we have the season of Lent to help us re-orient ourselves to God, the source and fulfillment of our lives, to reform our lives and to seek his sustenance in our journey of faith to one day be united to him forever in heaven.

Our Lenten fare this week is a Hearty Tuna Salad Sandwich in Whole Wheat Pita, food for us and a treat for the cat.

Ingredients:
– 2 cans (6.5 oz. size) tuna in water
– 1 small shallot, chopped
– 1/8 tsp celery seed
– 5 sun dried tomato pieces, chopped
– 4 generous tbsp mayonnaise
– 1 clove of garlic, minced
– black pepper to taste
– 2-3 drops of Tabasco, optional
– red or green lettuce leaves
– slices of Roma tomato

Directions:
Open the tuna cans, press the lid down on the tuna to drain off the water (which you will save for the cat). Put the tuna in a bowl and break up the pieces with a fork. Add shallot, sun dried tomato, garlic, celery seed, black pepper and mayonnaise. You can put a couple of drops of Tabasco on now and mix it all together.

Cut whole wheat pitas in half and toast lightly. Open the pita pockets, start with a leaf or two of lettuce, spoon in some tuna salad and insert some slices of Roma tomato.

Very simple and very satisfying. Enjoy!

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