Tuna Dish

Huh, okay. A ten-cent bag of chips. I can do this.

All we have to do is come up with an approximate date for the recipe, then figure out what a ten-cent bag of chips looked like at the time.

Campbell’s mushroom soup came out around 1934, and the recipe looks like it was written with a fountain pen (which by itself doesn’t mean anything, but can suggest that between newer and older recipes, start with older).

But are the eggs supposed to be hard-boiled? From the October 7, 1954 edition of the Jefferson City (Missouri) Post-Tribune:

Tuna Fish Casserole

Edna Sullivan
630 Broadway

1 can Tuna Fish-flaked
1 can mushroom soup
1 25-cent package potato chips (crushed)
3 hard-boiled eggs (chopped)

Mix all ingredients together. Bake in casserole in a moderate oven (350 degree) 40 to 50 minutes.

But then, what about this recipe from a couple decades later, printed in the May 10, 1971 edition of the Petersburg (Virginia) Progress?

Mrs. Henry W. O’Mery
Rt. 1, Box 28 A
Colonial Heights

Tuna Fish Casserole

1 can tuna fish
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 bag potato chips (20 cents)
1 grated boiled egg

In a baking dish, place a layer of tuna fish then a layer of potato chips crush, a layer of egg. Repeat the layers until all have been used. Pour cream of mushroom soup which has been thinned with water over mixture. Bake at 350 degrees until heated through. 4 servings.

So, okay. A 25-cent bag of potato chips in 1954 if you use three eggs, and a 20-cent bag in 1971 if you use one egg. And I’m looking for an undetermined date when you’d use two eggs and a 10-cent bag of chips. Let me say the following to the housewives of the 20th century who wrote these recipes:

The wrinkle here is that newspaper ads don’t include potato chip prices in the 1950s, for the most part, for precisely the same reason the authors of these recipes didn’t include a size: the price was printed on the bag. And fortunately, for a recipe like this, we don’t really have to be exactly right. It’s not like the quantity of potato chips will make a casserole fail.

But my best guess, based on looking at the prices on wrappers from various years, is that this is recipe calls for somewhere around 1-1/2 ounces of potato chips. Why? Well, looking at the prices on wrappers, that makes the most sense for what you’d get for 10 cents somewhere in the 1940s or 1950s.

Est. Year Price Size Brand
1930s 5 c. 3/4 oz. Utz
1940s 15 c. 2-1/2 oz. Crispy’s
1940s 15 c. 2-3/4 oz. Laura Scudder
1940s 10 c. 1-1/2 oz. Wise
1950s 10 c. 1 oz. Blue Bell
1950s 29 c. 4-1/4 oz. Helms
1970s 35 c. 3 oz. Laura Scudder

From the box of H.P., sold in Paradise, Arizona.

Tuna Dish

1 can tuna
2 eggs (whole)
10-cent package potato chips (broken up) [Note: Probably around 1-1/2 oz.]
1 can mushroom soup (Campbell’s)
Milk equal to the soup (use soup can to measure)
1 slice bread, broken up

Mix tuna, mushroom soup, milk, eggs, and potato chips together, leaving some of the chips for top. Bake at 400 deg. for 30 minutes. Do not salt as the chips are salty enough for the seasoning.

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