Wednesday, June 20


Way back in 1993, after I finished six months of managing a fast-food burger joint, I read Diet for a New America and announced I was going vegetarian. I remember it lasting a year or so, but I doubt I made it that long as the change wasn't permanent. What was permanent was a prominent place for beans in my diet and a love of investigating new foods.

However, tofu -- that staple of the vegetarian diet -- stumped me. I got my boxes at the grocery store and pressed it, froze it, marinated it, seasoned it, and mixed it with flavoring packets. I couldn't find a way to make it work. I did eventually try the shelf-stable packs of Mori-nu, and found I liked them in my pad thai... but they were expensive and the packs are wasteful, so they were a rare treat.

I knew it wasn't that I just don't like tofu, because I was happy to eat it when it came in dishes I ate out... like hot and sour soup, stir-fried veggies and tofu, and the like.

It turns out that the tofu I was buying isn't very good! I finally got permission to blame the tofu when my chef friend, who grew up eating tofu, recently mentioned it by name and declared how bad she finds that one. Fortunately in the last 14 years, we've had several other tofu brands become available.

Over the weekend she helped me pick out a brand she likes that's available at the Asian market, and fixed one of her favorite childhood dishes. I'm cooking with the rest of it this week. In fact, I just finished my first tofu-based lunch -- a cup of brown rice, two cups of stir-fried veggies, and half a cup of stir fried tofu strips. There was some profound anxiety internally when I was packing it though...I don't know how much of food like this I need to satisfy me through the afternoon. But I also bring beans and polenta for lunch fairly regularly, so it's not like I'm totally clueless about going meatless for lunch.

I guess, like with riding the bus, changing how I eat -- even though I know it's better for me and the environment -- means facing a variety of resistive self-talk. There's the fear of the unknown, security fears, emotional attachments to the behavior that's being challenged, worries about social approval, and the extra time it takes to do something new over the old habitual behavior. But here I am, having a darn good tofu lunch and looking forward to the CSA pickup tonight. I think I'm gonna be all right. (But I have a pack of M&Ms in my desk just in case.)


Oldnovice said...

We're omnivores, but I "toy" with extra-firm tofu. You probably already know that once you buy the tofu you have enough to include in pretty much every meal you're gonna make for a few weeks.

My experience (and I'm 60 years old so I have the experience thing going for me) is that tofu has no taste in and of itself. It's like sea scallops in that regard. It's like a sponge to pick up the tastes of anything/everything you put on/around it, and it has the protein thing going for it, so I cook with it at least once/week. I throw it into any dish that has a good flavor going for it on its own. What can go wrong?

P~ said...

We have been trying to include a little more of the tofu into our diet around our house just because it is a healthier way to get some protien and not so much meat in the diet. I have three kids under twelve, and when they don't like something they will let us know about it. We have had good luck with frying it hard in a little olive oil after seasoning as well as using the silken tofu and mixing it into fruit smoothies. it will disappear and will add a nice smooth texture to it. I'd love to know what brand your friend recommends.

Anne said...

OldNovice - I think I once threw tofu in a stew thinking it was like zucchini in the flavor-absorbing realm... it doesn't stew very well. ;-) Although maybe later in the cooking process.

P~ I asked my mom this week what kinds of things we ate in the late 70's when all kinds of things were going to heck. One thing she mentioned that surprised me: She was extending ground beef with textured vegetable protein (TVP). I have absolutely no memory of that, although I have wondered how we managed to feed all five of us a meatloaf made from a pound of ground -- and have leftovers. I think I have a hint now. ;-)

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