Tuna Melt (1968); The New Yorker on "The Big Apple"

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sat Jan 15 19:14:55 UTC 2005

On Jan 15, 2005, at 10:26 AM, Bapopik at AOL.COM wrote:

> ...
> ...
> Google Answers was asked about the origin of the "tuna melt." It's
> interesting to see what GA came up with, without asking me or Ben
> Zimmer or Andy  Smith.
> ...
> Google Answers incorrectly, I believe, places "tuna melt" in the very
> first
> JOY OF COOKING (the text changed many times). But hey, that's why they
> get
> paid.

i don't have a 1st edition (1931), but i do have the 1946 edition,
which is (i think) the 6th edition.  it certainly does not have
anything *called* a "tuna melt" (or "patty melt", for that matter).  it
does have a recipe for Tuna Fish Sandwiches with Cheese (p. 30) --
"Broil them under a flame until the cheese is melted" -- that's in the
ball park, though it isn't called a "tuna melt".

as for "patty melt", this one's not in there at all, under any name.
though rombauer is enthusiastic about Hamburger Patties (p. 316: "These
are good--so good that one need not hesitate to serve them at any
time") and offers a number of variations on the basic patty (which
already includes bacon), none of these variations involve cheese.
there is also no "cheeseburger".

in any case, i'm guessing that "patty melt" and "tuna melt" originated
as diner/luncheonette labels.  that's the context where i first
encountered them, though unfortunately i can't recall when, and the
diners and luncheonettes of that period are all long gone.  i do
remember the restaurant at Whitner's Department Store in downtown
Reading, Pa., where i often had lunch when i worked at the Reading
Eagle (1958-61); i fondly recall their Philadelphia Pepperpot Soup, and
*think* i sometimes ordered a tuna melt (under that name) there.

in fact, i'm not sure if i've ever heard "patty melt" or "tuna melt" in
a home cooking context.

arnold (zwicky at csli.stanford.edu)

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