Crab Louie, With Love: I Hate Tuna, I Love My Parents

by: Patrick Gill


I want to be completely honest, I finally sat down to write this after reading Sophie Turton’s piece for her mother’s wedding 5 times after its publication.  I just kept reading and reading and reading and hoping that I could say something with just a sliver of the power she had with that, and still write about tuna. 

I make tuna salad, weekly; sometimes multiple times a week.  I do not eat tuna.  I am a full vegetarian.  It’s a part of my job.  I have done it so much that I actually resent tuna, at least a little.  I think about what it would be like to live in a society where the Bluefin and the Ahai swam free, where I never had to crack open another 3 pound can and sigh as I drain it, I think of a world where people know what seitan is (not even my Spell Check knows it) and they like it, so that they don’t just get scared and order tuna salad sandwiches, I yearn for a place where I don’t have to feel the cold globby irony mixing tuna fish with vegenaise.  But that’s not the world I live in, and that’s not what this is about.

This is about monogamy.  I am a monogamous person.  I have been in a polyamorus relationship, and it was right for the months that I was in it, but I know now that I like one on one lovin’.  It’s not for everyone, I understand that.

My parents are monogamous.  Always have been; from the looks and sounds of it they will continue to be.  They love each other, it’s nice.  Yet it wasn’t until right before this  Thanksgiving that I actually saw them, actually understood them to be a relationship role model of mine.

Please don’t misread that, they are happily married, they have undoubtably made up the core of my subconscious view of relationships/true love, but this Fall was when I actively looked to them and said that, I want that, that’s the kind of love I can live off of.

Well I didn’t really say it, they are actually finding this out at the same time you are, hopefully they are reading this right now.  Hi Mom, hi Dad.  I love you, and you didn’t realize it, but you made me enjoy believing in monogamy.


My mom was telling this story, like it was a boring story.  We were sitting around their hotel room, myself, my sister, her husband, my mom and dad.  My mom was sitting at the table and telling this story, and I was sipping wine and listening from across the room.  We all were sipping wine.  We all were getting warm.  They thought it was cold, I just had a long day at on my feet.

She was lightly gesticulating, she had reached her somehow arrhythmic yet melodious cadence, her incomparable pitch that I can never get when I’m imitating her to my friends (my friend’s love my mother and stories about her, understandably); occasionally she would look back to my dad, or not, knowing he would make appropriate punctuations to her sentences, that he would add to the story like he always does.  Apparently her and my father are on this minor odyssey, they think it is minor, for the best Crab Louie in the entire Monterey Bay.  It’s a big bay, there are a lot of seafood joints; when they both have the time on trips to Southern California to see family, they like to pop into places, or they venture out around Santa Cruz for a date night.

My mother is telling us this story, and at the point where she is talking about a terrible dish in some Cannery Row tourist trap: smelly meats, limp lettuce, just saddeningly terrible,  and it hit me.  I wanted this.  I jolted but I don’t think anyone saw me.  I sipped my wine again and thought, I want this, not subpar seafood, but at least someone to share something like subpar seafood with.

I want someone to travel, not really far and wide, but to convenient places, with the willingness to, in spite the convenience, create adventure.  I want someone to have their place in my stories, to have a distinctive tone of telling stories that someone can pick out of a crowd, but can’t recreate.  I want to have a life with someone, who even though we have responsibilities at hand, we make time for one another.  That the time we make is spent doing something new, but still within our taste.

My mom and dad thought this story was a bit boring, an empty nester’s pass time.  I actually regret that I let it trail off without saying any of this.  To me, the love they have isn’t dull; It’s comforting, it’s stable, it’s willing to understand that the big trips don’t happen all the time so we have to make something lovely and new out of every chance we get.  It’s knowing where to get something good and learning that together.  I haven’t given myself that much time for stability, I don’t always think about how safe I will be in someone else’s arms.

I want a love that always tries but doesn’t have to always have to come up against the big questions every other day.  Love that learns, love that makes the core of a mundane story bright, makes it incredible.


I started making this salad at work, the Gulf Salad; its our tuna salad on a bed of spinach, with tomatoes, cashews, and a house-made avocado-lime dressing.  I started making it because I just wanted something that sold.  It was a little cynical of me, but I plopped some tuna on some spinach and thought “Where do I go from here, because people seem to love this nonesense.”

Its actually incredibly difficult to dislike my job, as one of my best friends/coworker/family member pointed out one day, I get to listen to ska music  and make vegetarian (for the most part) food all day, and he was right, I live a little bit of the dream–  for the record we listen to more Sleater Kinney and Beyonce because of him.

The only low points seem to come when nothing is selling or everything is selling too fast for me to make more; when you work hard and make something you think is exquisite, only for it to go uneaten, or for you to have something you don’t really like making keep selling out.  You can’t argue with public taste, but you can get frustrated with it.  I used to say that to myself when I was measuring the spices and chopping the onions for the next batch of tuna.  But recently, since Thanksgiving, I try to put something a little stronger into my mind.

I try to think that what I am making may be something someone else is searching for, the best of something that they tell their friends and family about.  I try to think about how if I make something that tastes great to someone, I might have made their day better.  I think, and it might have a smudge of arrogance on it, that maybe I made two people happier together.  I think of the Perfect Crab Louie,  I think of love, and so suddenly tuna doesn’t seem like the worst.


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