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The History of the Tuna Melt

While it is a well-known dish today, the tuna melt was not the first tuna sandwich. Dating back to the early 20th century, tuna salad sandwiches were already a long-standing staple at lunch counters across America and canned tuna was well-established as a pantry staple by the time the tuna melt came around. Reportedly, the now-iconic sandwich was created by accident. While there’s little information to verify this story, there also aren’t many conflicting accounts. Supposedly, a cook working the busy lunch counter at a Woolworth's department store in Charleston, South Carolina accidentally dropped some tuna on top of a grilled cheese sandwich. In doing so, the cook accidentally discovered that the combination of cheese and tuna on grilled bread worked well together. From there, the sandwich caught on and became very popular in the 1960s. It’s thought that because the sandwich doesn’t rely on fresh produce or meat — at its most basic, it is just bread, cheese, tuna, mayonnaise, and, in some cases, celery — the convenience and accessibility inherent in the recipe helped to popularize it at a time when more Americans were entering the workforce and quick, convenient meals were in demand. Today, the tuna melt is still a staple offering on many restaurant menus and the sandwich is still made in many home kitchens all across America.

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