Maureen O’Hara’s Tuna Crush Salad
The snow is slowly melting around town, I’ve been seeing green everywhere I go, and the TCM Classic Film Festival is just over a month away. All of this can only mean one thing: March is upon us! I’ve been so enthusiastic to pen my column for Cooking with the Stars this month in particular because I’ve known for quite some time whose career I would spotlight and whose recipe I would try. To me, March is a time for appreciating Irish films, cuisine, and actors, and I could think of no better Irish star to salute in honor of St. Patrick’s Day than the iconic Maureen O’Hara, my favorite Irishwoman of all! Making things even more interesting was the realization that I only had one recipe for Maureen, which looked quite bizarre to me. So far I’ve had pretty great luck in testing out vintage recipes for this column, to the point where a recipe that appeared unappetizing actually intrigued me. At worst, it would be my first failure, which would be interesting to write about. At best, I’d learn the lesson to not judge a recipe by its ingredients, and I was more than eager to find out which of the two results would emerge victorious. Keep reading to learn more about one of the toughest yet loveliest women in classic film, find out the outcome of her salad, and learn how you can replicate her creation at home!
Maureen O’Hara was born under the name of Maureen FitzSimons on August 17, 1920 in Ranelagh, a suburb of Dublin, Ireland. She was the second eldest of six children, and the only member of the family who sported the flaming red hair that would eventually become her trademark. From childhood Maureen inherited her courageous and outdoorsy mannerisms from her father, who managed a clothing business before becoming a part-owner of the Shamrock Rovers Football Club, a soccer team that Maureen desperately wanted to become a part of in her youth. Yet it was her mother’s passion for the arts that would become her calling, and she was trained in drama, music and dance with her siblings from a young age. She appeared in a variety of stage productions, from portraying Robin Hood in a Christmas production for the Rathmines Theatre Company at the age of ten to winning the Dublin Feis Award for her performance as Portia in The Merchant of Venice at fifteen. Maureen’s success led to her being offered a major role in a production at the Abbey Theatre, but at the same time she caught the eye of actor and singer Harry Richman, who arranged a screen test for her in London. For the test, Maureen was given a gaudy golden gown, an over-the-top hairdo, and was covered in an excess of makeup. The actress wasn’t a fan of the direction of the scene for her test either, and even refused to read a particular excerpt from the script that she was given.
Yet by some miracle, legendary actor Charles Laughton watched the screen test and saw potential in the Irish beauty, taking her under his wing and signing her to a seven-year contract as a player for his own production company, Mayflower Pictures. She was cast in her first leading role alongside Laughton in Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn (1939), and her performance in that picture impressed the veteran actor so much that he gave her the part of Esmeralda opposite him once again in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), for which she did all of her own stunts. Once the war began on the British front, however, her mentor sold her contract in what she always considered a heartbreaking move, leaving her to flounder in pictures that were out of her element like They Met in Argentina (1941). At this time, Maureen had serious doubts about her career in movies, until she caught word of John Ford’s production of How Green Was My Valley (1941), a film depicting a hardworking rural Welsh family. O’Hara begged Ford for a role, which began a tempestuous yet long lasting friendship between the actress and director while essentially introducing her to American audiences. How Green Was My Valley (1941) was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning five and beating out the likes of Citizen Kane (1941) for Best Picture.
Maureen O’Hara on full display in glorious Technicolor along with John Wayne in their classic scene from The Quiet Man (1952).
From there Maureen O’Hara’s pictures only improved, and she earned a name for herself throughout the forties as the Queen of Technicolor, most notably starring as the leading lady in both of the greatest pirate films of the decade: The Black Swan (1942) with Tyrone Power and The Spanish Main (1945) with Paul Henried, though she also showed off her range at the same time by giving a heartfelt and memorable performance in one of the most beloved black-and-white holiday classics, Miracle on 34th Street (1947). The next decade brought forth the first of five pairings with the most frequent and well-known of Maureen’s leading men: none other than John Wayne, who starred opposite O’Hara in Rio Grande (1950), their seminal picture (and the perfect St. Patrick’s Day film) The Quiet Man (1952), The Wings of Eagles (1957), McClintock! (1963), and Big Jake (1971). Outside of her collaborations with Wayne, Maureen O’Hara enjoyed acclaim in movies like the original version of Disney’s The Parent Trap (1961), but overall her work was sporadic from that point forward and she chose instead to focus on her husband, famed aviator General Charles Blair, and her daughter Bronwyn from a previous marriage. After Blair’s passing in a plane crash in 1978, Maureen went on to become the president and CEO of Antilles Air Boats, making her the first female president of an airline in the United States. In 2014, she was given a long overdue Honorary Academy Award, and she passed away almost one year later on October 25, 2015 at the age of ninety-five. She’s buried beside her husband in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
Maureen O’Hara’s Tuna Crush Salad
- ½ can of tuna
- 4 ½ tablespoons chopped sweet or dill pickle
- 1 ½ tablespoon minced onion
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- ½ tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 ½ cups crisp shredded cabbage
- 1 small bag potato chips, coarsely crushed
- ½ head of lettuce
- 2 large tomatoes
- Combine tuna, pickle, onion, mayonnaise and lemon juice, and chill in a covered dish.
- When ready to serve, add cabbage and toss together.
- Add part of crushed potato chips and toss.
- Heap into a shallow lettuce-lined salad bowl, sprinkle the rest of the potato chips on top, and garnish with tomato wedges. Serves 6.
As I mentioned before, I was eager to make this dish because I hoped that it would either be an entertaining flop or a diamond in the rough, but unfortunately neither of those situations appeared to be the case. Have you ever whipped up something new in the kitchen, hoping that the combination of ingredients would create entirely new flavors, but instead it just turns out to taste like a bunch of separate ingredients put together? That’s precisely what Maureen’s Tuna Crush Salad turned out to be. It looked beautiful, even better than I’d hoped for, but at the end of the day it just tasted like tuna, cabbage, and tomatoes, with an added crunch from the potato chips and an added creaminess from the mayonnaise. The mere sight of canned tuna turned everyone away from trying the salad, and it made so much that I was unable to finish the whole thing by myself, even if I wanted to. If you enjoy tuna, cabbage, and potato chips and enjoy the idea of putting them together, you’ll probably enjoy this salad. If you’re like me and you adore Maureen O’Hara so much that you’re willing to make this at home and hope that it’s an unexpected delight, I’m sorry to break the news to you that it isn’t. For my money, I give this Irish beauty’s side dish two out of five Vincents, as it wasn’t inedible, but it was nothing to get excited about. I might not implore you to try this yourself this month, but I absolutely hope that you got a kick out of Maureen’s vintage recipe, and that you become inspired to watch some of her films this St. Patrick’s Day!
Cooking with the Stars Recipe Rating – 2 out of 5 Vincents:
–Samantha Ellis for Classic Movie Hub
Samantha resides in West Chester, Pennsylvania and is the author of Musings of a Classic Film Addict, a blog that sheds light on Hollywood films and filmmakers from the 1930s through the 1960s. Her favorite column that she pens for her blog is Cooking with the Stars, for which she tests and reviews the personal recipes of stars from Hollywood’s golden age. When she isn’t in the kitchen, Samantha also lends her voice and classic film knowledge as cohost of the Ticklish Business podcast alongside Kristen Lopez and Drea Clark, and proudly serves as President of TCM Backlot’s Philadelphia Chapter. You can catch up with her work by following her @classicfilmgeek on Twitter.