As It Happens

Virginia senator blames Canada for his 'extra moist' microwave tuna melt

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner is standing behind the culinary creation that he alleges is a tuna melt.

Recipe involves heaps of mayo and undrained canned tuna on white bread

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner holds up what he alleges is a tuna melt invented in Canada. (Mark Warner/Instagram)


Virginia Sen. Mark Warner is standing behind the culinary creation that he alleges is a tuna melt.

The Democratic lawmaker posted a video on Instagram walking people through his old family recipe that involves slapping huge blobs of mayonnaise on white bread, topping it with undrained canned tuna and processed cheese, and heating in the microwave.

He's since had to face scorn and disgust from his colleagues, his constituents, and even his own children.

Here is part of his conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off. 

Senator Warner, as you know, we have reached out to you in the past to talk about weighty matters of state. But I never thought that I would be calling to challenge you on your culinary habits.

Well, it's been an interesting last couple of days. I will acknowledge that. 

How many people have let you know that your tuna melt tutorial was just a real meltdown?

It was a real meltdown. 

What generated it was a number of politicians, famous people here — I think in an effort to kind of show their humanity through the coronavirus — had been making videos of them singing a song, playing the piano or baking their grandmother's favourite brownie recipe. 

And I thought, well, I can't do any of that. But I did make something when I was 12. And my 25-year-old daughter who is cooped up here with us decided that we would film it.

And maybe I did stretch a little bit. I knew I would get some reaction with the excess mayo, the white bread, the processed cheese, the tuna straight from the can without draining the can, and the microwave.

But even all those things combined, I didn't think I would get the kind of literal meltdown that occurred. 

You're getting scolded in all directions, aren't you?

Yeah. I think there were some folks that might not have seen the humour in that. But maybe that's just because they've been inside too long. 

You mentioned a number of the details in the video that made people suspicious that you had no idea what you were doing.

I did warn people that unless you are a professional chef, you might need to pause occasionally, because I was moving fairly quickly.

I think the genius of the tuna melt that I prepared was it was less than 2 1/2 minutes. And that even included the 20-second hand wash I performed while the sandwich was in the microwave.

Warner scoops canned tuna onto his sandwich without draining the excess water. (Mark Warner/Instagram)

But it probably took you another 20 seconds to actually empty most of a bottle of mayonnaise onto the bread.  

Carol, I do have to acknowledge, as I've told you in the past, my mother's family's all from Ontario, and I may have gotten my mayonnaise-eating habits from that side of the family. 

Oh, no, no, no. You're not going to blame us for that. My gosh, that was excessive. Maybe that's a Warner family recipe. It has been passed on through the generations, you're saying? 

Actually, I was going to use what I grew up with, [which] was Miracle Whip. But even my daughter thought that was a little too gross. 

But I can assure you that whatever Warner mayonnaise affliction has not been passed onto my three kids. They are completely aghast after I put mayonnaise on it. 

I do use it as well on baloney and cheese and other things.

Now you did get a real dressing down from Sen. Kamala Harris, who really showed you how it's done. What did you make of how she shows you how to do a tuna melt? 

Kamala's a good friend. And it is one approach. I still think mine's a little hardier and a little more authentic.

But you were alarmed when she added lemon and chopped vegetables, right?

Well, parsley and lemon on a tuna melt?

I just think that may show her a little too much tendency towards vegetarianism.

"This is a skillet," she says at some point. You knew that, right? 

Matter of fact, there had been times when I used toaster ovens. But, you know, it doesn't happen nearly as quickly or as magically with 30 seconds in the microwave, and you get that white bread, extra moist feeling when it comes out of the microwave. 

You didn't drain the tuna. You put half a bottle of mayonnaise on it. And you put it in the microwave. It must have been fairly soggy.

That's where the processed cheese — and I'm a two-slice man — you know, helped absorb some of that extra excess liquid.

Do you have any other recipes that you plan to share with people during the pandemic? 

I told Kamala that, you know, my next performance might be with baloney and Velveeta along with potato bread that's slightly yellow as opposed to white.

If a tuna melt can bring friends and family together, you know, that's one small step forward.- Mark Warner, Virginia senator 

That sounds like something out of the Kraft Family Kitchen. Recipes from probably the Canadian Cookbook. 

Right? I am showing a little bit of my ethnic heritage here.

What did your kids think of your your efforts?

They were aghast.

They said they've heard from friends — they're all in their mid-20s to 30s — that they hadn't heard from since grammar school. 

So, you know, if a tuna melt can bring friends and family together, you know, that's one small step forward.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong and Katie Geleff. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

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