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Salad ‘scoops’ for Lent

It’s Lent, and there are foods I won’t tolerate during meatless Fridays.

Like fish sticks. My rant against the breaded, narrow slices of fish was published earlier this month. (It’s here if you missed it.)

There are other foods I eat only during Lent — such as egg salad and tuna fish salad. I was introduced to both foods during the 1970s, as an undergraduate at noble St. Bonaventure University in New York’s Southern Tier. On Fridays during Lent — it might have been every Friday — the Bonaventure cafeteria chefs cooked up bowls full of chopped eggs and chopped tuna fish. Once the foods were placed in serving lines, cafeteria servers gave each diner one scoop of the egg salad and one scoop of the tuna fish. The lunch became so popular, it earned its own nickname — “Scoops.”

Some of my friends invented far worse terms to describe Bonnie dinner staples such as hamburger steak, meatloaf and the formidable Monte Cristo — a ham and cheese sandwich dipped in egg batter and fried. I liked all three.

Nobody seemed to complain that much about “Scoops.” They were served with potato chips or french fries, and most of us grabbed some bread, fortified each slice with mayonnaise, lettuce and onion and wolfed down cold lunches.

I have honored the tradition on some Fridays during Lent — not all of them. There has to be time for cheese lasagna, giant salads and potato pancakes, after all. Still, my home versions of the one-time Bonaventure favorites are fully loaded and an improvement over the originals.

For all salads, I believe in extra ingredients for extra flavor and color. Chopping up tuna fish and hard-boiled eggs is easy enough — just make sure you’re using separate bowls. From there, it’s simple to cut up celery and red onion and toss them into the mixes. Liberal dashes of Italian spices and conservative splashes of Italian salad dressing help things along.

Each bowl receives special attention. I mix the tuna salad with light mayonnaise. The egg salad occasionally get chopped Spanish olives or chopped pickles. And in addition to the mayo, I generally add a few squirts of salad mustard.

For all chopped vegetables, I use what real chefs call a “small dice.” If I’m making chicken, potato, egg or tuna salad, I want to make sure all additives are small. Nothing worse than large chunks of onion or celery competing with the main star of the bowl.

With all these items in the recipe, a good mix is mandatory. So is a nice chill, so a couple hours in the refrigerator are advised before serving. The tuna salad will last a couple of days in the refrigerator, by the way. But egg salad is a one-day dish; cooked eggs don’t seem to age all that well.

So I’m happy to report at least one St. Bonaventure alumnus is still getting “Scoops,” of both the culinary and occasional journalistic varieties. Some of my former classmates, now on Facebook, offer conflicting memories. “I must be weird, but I LOVED Bona’s food,” said Shelley from Rochester. “I loved ‘Scoops.’ Several years ago, when my father came to have lunch with me and my little kids, I made ‘Scoops.’ ”

“That they sucked . . . is my memory,” said Chris from Connecticut. “That you liked them only supports our recall on your strange palate.”

And Chris was one of my better friends. Sadly, “Scoops” have been removed from the Bonaventure menu. Alumni services director Joe Flanagan told me that last Friday, tuna salad wraps were on the lunch schedule. Tuna melts were served for dinner.

That wasn’t the worst news, though. “The Monte Cristo sandwich . . . has also been discontinued,” Flanagan said.

I didn’t have the heart to ask about hamburger steak.

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