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FISHING FOR TUNA IN OIL? READERS HAVE A LINE

Greetings from Tuna Land, where I am working my way out of a pile of oil-packed tuna even as we speak.

You may recall that about a month ago, I wrote a column complaining that I could only find water-packed tuna. And I hate it because both the texture and flavor are inferior. I also groused that I was tired of people (and supermarketers) deciding what was good for me (tuna in oil obviously contains more fat and calories).

I was using the water-packed tuna as a metaphor, I suppose, for just how paternalistic our society had become. One reader put it better: "Not only are supermarkets getting too big - they are dictating to us. Some nerve!" she wrote.

It turns out that there are a whole lot of people who agree with me. It's an accepted fact in the newspaper business that readers don't respond to an article unless they disagree with it. But not in this case. My voice-mail messages were actually cheering me on! And that happy state of affairs continued on e-mail as well as snail mail.

Only one person disagreed, wanting to know what the big deal was. I should just add mayonnaise to the watery tuna, she suggested. (Trust me, it's not the same thing.)

Everyone else felt differently. "Tuna packers push water for profit. I know. I have the facts," wrote an East Aurora reader. What if he's right?

I also received actual cans of tuna. They started coming by special messenger. Some were purchased at a discount grocery store in Canada. Others at Italian grocery stores on Grant Street and Hertel Avenue.

Some included recipes: "For tuna salad, don't drain this. Use all of the oil and add the juice and zest of a whole lemon," I was instructed. "More tuna flavor and healthier, too."

All of this made my September. Thank you all.

But the final surprise came this week: a package of 12 cans from Siletz, Ore., sent from Cinda Shedore and her husband, Mike, who heard of my complaint. They run a company called Cinda's Sea Maiden, and catch their albacore tuna from the family boat with surface lures and barbless hooks. Then they pack that tuna, both fresh and smoked, in olive oil.

And they also pack the fish with jalapeno and garlic, and with chardonnay. I don't know about those last two. I'm a North Buffalo girl, you understand. I went to School 81 and Bennett High School and carried an ordinary tuna sandwich with me every single day.

So I'm reserving opinion.

Stay tuned.

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