Fresh Tofu, Right Off the Farm

This sounds more serious than it actually is, but I just ran out of tofu.

We pick and choose what, and how, we want to eat, and the more we know how to cook, the better we choose, and eat. Garden Gatherings by Steve Henderson.

For years I’ve bought the stuff, meaning to incorporate it into our eating lifestyle, and I have: we’ve eaten chocolate tofu pudding (silken tofu pulverized in a blender with sugar and cocoa); tofu scrambled eggs (soft tofu mashed with spices and fried like eggs); tofu tacos (firm tofu crumbled with onions and fried like hamburger) — and they all tasted about as good as they sound.

But I never let things go, even when the pop medical news journalists announce that we don’t have to eat the stuff after all, because maybe it’s not as good for us as they’ve been trumpeting for so long. True to the way I live most of my life, I finally discovered a decent use for tofu long after I stopped looking.

I stir fry it as part of a Thai food entree.

Well, duh. Common sense shouts that food unusual to the American palate generally tastes best in its original habitat, and Asian cuisine has incorporated something like tofu well into a rich history that does not include chocolate pudding.

But for awhile there, I was reading healthy lifestyle cookbooks, you know, the ones that extol the fresh, peppery taste of dandelion greens straight from the lawn (Yes, I did that, once. And no, we don’t spray our lawn with pesticides; I’m honestly not THAT dumb.)

The soup course consisted of vegetable stock, boiled without salt, with a cup of detritus stirred back in for textural interest.

The main course: broiled “steaks” of mashed black beans and ground green peas, which the book insisted tastes like something “just off the ranch.” Well, I suppose there are a lot of things you can pick up off the ranch that aren’t meat.

Cows aren't the only things you find on a ranch. Rumination by Steve Henderson

Beverage: water. Starch: You don’t need it. Vegetables: That’s all you’ve been eating. Dessert: mock-chocolate fudge drops made with no chocolate and sweetened by boiled, pureed raisins.

“Your family will never know the difference!” the book promised.

Are you kidding? The dog knew the difference, and you do know . . . the types of things that dogs eat?

These recipes must have been written by the same disconnected souls who advise in women’s magazines:

When you feel like a doughnut . . . have a rye crisp cracker!

Craving chocolate? A tasty prune will satisfy!

Bagels for breakfast? Not when there’s hot creamy oatmeal on the table! (Bagels are chewy, not creamy.)

Perhaps the problem lies in seeking substitutes for the real thing — deceiving ourselves that there is no difference between the two — as opposed to learning how to cook, and eat, satisfyingly savory food that doesn’t come out of a white bag, isn’t laced with unpronounceable additives, and isn’t marketed by a pasty white computer-animated snowman creature.

There's no substitute for the real thing: real food, real life, real beauty. Last Light in Zion by Steve Henderson

No, it won’t taste like a Twinkie. It may take a while to get used to this. But it is possible to adjust our palette to appreciate real, cool food like Parmesan cheese; chicken bussed by lime and garlic; hot fresh bread straight from our own ovens; even vegetables stir fried and coated with green curry paste which, if I can find in my isolated hamlet, anyone can.

I read once that the fewer ingredients you use in a dish, the better quality they need to be, and, ergo, the better the result.

Like this: Mac and cheese from a box, or pasta and white sauce (butter, flour, milk) with real cheddar cheese. Guess which one not only tastes better, but is better for you?

Do yourself a favor this year — learn to cook.

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About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. In addition to her This Woman Writes blog, Carolyn writes a regular art column for FineArtNews, an online newsletter for artists and art collectors.
This entry was posted in Art, blogging, Culture, Current Events, Daily Life, Encouragement, Family, Food, Growth, health, Humor, Life, Lifestyle, News, Personal, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Fresh Tofu, Right Off the Farm

  1. wartica says:

    I can’t get enough of tofu; it’s always clutch at any time of day:)

    • So far, I’m enjoying it in one little form — stir fried to a delicate brown on the outside, hot and creamy on the inside, and added to the Thai food. I may move on to greater horizons, but only if they’re not chocolate pudding or scrambled eggs.

      Please, hit me with suggestions!

  2. oldswimmer says:

    My gastroenterologist must have told you something…(just up off the scope table here)! But I actually have done most of what you describe, and actually like tender little new dandilion greens as an addition to a mixed green salad. Tofu–not so much. I do like Feta, though. And cooking from scratch is really soul enriching– bread from scratch and what I call refrigerator soup, or freezer soup. People come back for more of that stuff– different every time, but it’s the scratch that does it. And some judicial use of herbs tossed about in a bit of pure olive oil with cloves of garlic– a bit of tomato paste and a splash of Pinot Grigot (I don’t drink it…just spash it.)
    Hooray for gastronomical miracles, huh? 🙂 Smiling. Susan

    • My dandelion foray was a failure, which is sad because they’re FREE and there are SO MANY of THEM! Susan, if you have a secret as to when to harvest these things and how, please let me know (I’ve heard that you’re supposed to do it before the flowers come out, but before the flowers come out, you can’t see the plants. At least I can’t.)

  3. Jana Botkin says:

    Several thoughts here:
    1. Lovely paintings! They always are, but these really shine.
    2. For awhile, I was all soyed up, slipping it into anything and everything. Then I began reading that perhaps it isn’t such a good idea, so I have stopped. Yea. One less thing to buy.
    3. I choose what to make based on what is inexpensive and fresh (as opposed to canned, frozen, or in a box) and choose recipes based on the fewest number of ingredients.
    4. If Old Swimmer (Hi Susan!) sheds some light on how to harvest dandelion greens, I may give them a try too!
    5. Is Last Light in Zion available as cards? I’d like some yarn in those colors too!

  4. Jana:

    1) Thank you. I will let the Norwegian Artist know.
    2) I used to make soy milk from the beans and tried to convince myself it tasted good. It was a relief when the “new” research came out!
    3) Like you, we eat by the season — generally, what’s cheapest in the produce department is what is freshest and in season.
    4) Yes, Old Swimmer — we are waiting for this information!
    5) I am preparing a new card order and will let you know when I have more Zion ready. I’m working with the website and trying to figure out how to do the cards. Would you suggest having each card individually shown with the Buy Now option for one card at a time?

    • Jana Botkin says:

      So many choices on how to show and sell cards! You could:
      a. Sell individually
      b. Sell in packages of 4 cards/all same design
      c. Sell in assortments of 4 different cards within a package, which means you might need to include a little piece of paper showing what is in the package if you also take it to shows or sell through galleries.
      d. Sell as in b or c but use a different quantity.

      I’ve chosen not to sell my individual cards online because of the hassle factor. When you think of the trouble of transferring the $ from Paypal to your account, removing the card from inventory, addressing the package, taking it to the P.O. – hardly seems worth the effort for earning $3.50 (the price on my individual 5×7 cards).

      Sorry, Carolyn. I didn’t really answer your question for you. No matter how you sell these, I want some!!

  5. typefashion says:

    I like to use it in stir fry, and also sometime combine Soy chunks and tofu to make a stir fry of my own. These are on days I know I have not eaten well for a while. I try to eat more healthy but grabbing things on the go is so much easier when you are late for class. I am training myself to enjoy cooking 🙂

    I love the example “These recipes must have been written by the same disconnected souls who advise in women’s magazines:

    When you feel like a doughnut . . . have a rye crisp cracker!

    Craving chocolate? A tasty prune will satisfy!”
    So close to home !!

    xo
    http://www.typefashion.wordpress.com

    • When we were in college, lunch generally consisted of a very large brown paper bag of popcorn with brewer’s yeast liberally sprinkled in. By dinner we were so famished we ate straight out of the refrigerator. It is difficult indeed to cook, and eat, well when you’re managing college classes.

  6. Janece says:

    I’m a first time visitor and I have to say I landed here on a great day!! I just read an article about tofu…the funny thing about it is, in the cultures that have used it for aeons, it’s a CONDIMENT. LOL They think we westerners are a trip, trying to use it as a substitute for other things. SIlly us 🙂

    Denial rarely works for me. If I’m craving a bit of chocolate, say, I’ll try eating 10 other ‘healthy’ things to try to quench that craving, to no avail….and end up eating the bit of chocolate anyway. Do you know how many extra calories I’ve consumed by doing that? LOL Sheesh, I’m better off just enjoying my piece of dark chocolate, and getting on with it.

    VERY much enjoyed this first post and I’m looking forward to reading more of you.

    • Hi, Janece: Welcome, and thank you for visiting and subscribing. If you’ve trolled through the site, you’ll notice that I write about a variety of things, which is why I like the “Lifestyle” description!

      I did not know that tofu was a condiment — when it is stir fried and added to a dish is that considered a condiment? What other ways do they use it?

      As you say, leave it to us to mix it with flour paste and shape it into a turkey.

      I, too, don’t do well with denial. I try to avoid my trigger foods — which is basically anything sweet — and allow myself a treat on a reasonable basis. My problem is that once I start, I have a hard time stopping, but I’m getting better with practice. Like you, I’d rather have the real thing rarely than substitutes all the time, and, as you put it, I wind up eating what I’m avoiding anyway!

  7. “Perhaps the problem lies in seeking substitutes for the real thing — deceiving ourselves that there is no difference between the two…”

    So true! It is sad, really, how we become so accustomed to prepared things, that when you have the “real” thing, it doesn’t taste as good. A prime example that I just cannot ever seem to overcome: Real maple syrup vs. Aunt Jemimah. I will take Aunt Jemimah any day. You really have to make the conscious effort to retrain your brain to understand that all the preservatives and junk is not tasty, but those little buggers do something to your taste buds and don’t give up easily. One other thing to mention about cooking from scratch: It saves money! So much cheaper to buy fresh than packaged stuff. Amazing, really. And the slight increase for the higher quality things…well, isn’t your health worth it?

    One thing that I try to do as much as I can is eat organic. I haven’t quite been able to do it when it comes to meats: They have a different (re: natural) taste that I have a hard time enjoying still. But one feat I have made the jump to is milk. I bought one day non-fat milk and when I had a glass, I thought I had mistakenly bought whole! It was so much richer than the non-organic white water they call non-fat milk.

    • Years ago a friend from Maine brought me real maple syrup, and it was terrific! It was, however, unlike any of the maple syrup I have found in the store, which makes me think that the reason I don’t really like it is because what I can get isn’t really the good stuff. We solve the Aunt Jemima thing by using Nutella (natural, and tastes like chocolate frosting!), or Agave syrup (expensive, but you don’t need much of it — I like the one flavored with real vanilla or maple syrup), or jam with confectioner’s sugar (yeah, I know; but at least there are no preservatives in the CS, and we try to use our own jam.) If you are down in Peru, maybe you have options for jam down there? I remember when we lived in Colombia, the markets had incredible guava jam, and pineapple jam, and mango jam, that pretty much had recognizable ingredients.

      We are fortunate with milk because we keep goats, and their milk, despite the myths, is delicious. What do they call the stuff most people drink — dead white liquid? Tastes like the carton or the jug. Meat’s a trick. We don’t mind the natural flavor (we eat meat goats, after all), but the cost is prohibitive. I get what I can on sale and stir fry it to make it stretch farther (and that’s where the tofu comes in — stretches out the meat).

  8. A prune will never make a good substitution for chocolate—nothing can replace that creamy goodness or the endorphine rush we get from it. Another sad replacement “snack” food—plain rice cakes—just doesn’t cut it! My daughter (a vegetarian) loves tofu and cooks with it often. I’m trying to eat it–guess it’s an acquired taste!

    • M-Mother — It always amazes me how these “substitutions” require us to suspend our taste buds and our brains. As you say, there is not substitute for the real thing, and why not just enjoy it, now and then, guilt free?

      So far, I’m liking tofu stir fried in Thai and Chinese dishes. Once I find another use that I like, I will obsess and go overboard on that!

  9. I agree about the Tofu…I just can’t seem to develop a taste for it, with the exception of hot and sour soup purchased from our local chinese kitchen!

    However, I had to comment on this because for the last few years I have given up chocolate for lent and my substitute was….drum roll….PRUNES! I love the tasty little buggers but unfortunately any more than 3 at a time can be a bit “risky”. A serving is 6 but if I ate 6 my husband would divorce me or at the very least refuse to be within 3 rooms from where I am. All that lovely fiber! LOL

    I’m still working on Christmas chocolates…..I should just give them away…..

    I do agree, for the most part, that when craving something you are better off just giving in and having a small portion of whatever than substituting….I always end up eating the substitute and going back for the craved item anyway! LOL….I had such good will power in my youth….but now when I really need it….life is too short to give up those tasty tidbits….

    • What an absolute kick that your replacement for chocolate was prunes! Please, please, please don’t let the women’s magazines know!

      Actually, I love prunes. There are a number of wild plum trees in the countryside about, and the ones that we can dry, we do so, and have something sweet and chewy for the winter months.

      Christmas chocolates — the cheap ones, I can toss, but the Belgian chocolates, ah. I would save them to eat slowly over the next few months, but with my tribe, there would be nothing left after the first week.

  10. Just happened across your site (this tofu post drew me in). I’m trying to eat healthier by cooking more, and just learned how to make tofu. I’ve always hated it (the cubes you get at the store) but then had some fresh hand-made cold tofu and wow! What a difference!

    Thinking about it now, after reading your post, I’m sure the difference was, less ingredients, and pure ingredients. No Yellow number 5, and whatever else I cant pronounce! I’m definitely going to try cooking more this year!

    • I can’t even imagine where one would get freshly made tofu, but of course it makes sense, and you are right — good ingredients to start with, time to put them together, and you have something worth eating. I picked up a tortilla press at my favorite grocery and have been making fresh corn tortillas — the stuff in the grocery store isn’t even a distant cousin!

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