Those of you who’ve been around a while will remember my BFF, Catherine Newman? For years she wrote a parenting blog, Dalai Mama, which I discovered through my addiction to [the now defunct, let us all have a moment of silence] Wondertime magazine, and then she shifted her focus to a food blog, Dalai Mama Dishes*. When I initially discovered this change I panicked, so dependent was I on the connection I felt each week when I read about Catherine’s experience not only as a parent, but also as a human. But then I read her first food column, and with great relief I found her familiar personality in and around the lines of her recipe, and I got a grip, because it occurred to me that this change could benefit me in other ways. You see, every week she publishes a new recipe infused with the brilliant voice-of-humanity wit that made me declare Catherine my BFF in the first place, and I realized that I could still feel connected to the mother vibes and learn a thing or two in the kitchen at the same time. Humans do, after all, prepare the occasional meal.
It is actually thanks to Catherine that I started a magazine-clipping cookbook. Some great-sounding recipe from a Wondertime column ripped out of the magazine turned into a little pile of ripped out recipes from every single magazine in my house, and next thing I know I am organizing them and punching holes in them and making little dividers to keep them separate in case, I don’t know, I forget that caramel corn is a dessert and accidentally fix it for dinner. And so I have dutifully added her new recipes to my notebook: plum cake, which I probably won’t ever make; pot roast, which I would like to be eating for dinner tonight; granola, which I am probably too lazy to ever attempt; gingerbread, which I may actually try this weekend. And also, soy-glazed tofu. Which I actually prepared in my kitchen Sunday night. And about which I have a few things to say.
I should have known something was up when I read the first line of instructions: “Begin by wrangling the tofu into slices. Yes, it’s bobbing around in its plastic box like a malevolently bland sea creature, but you’re brave!” No. I am not brave, not really, because before I even got to the wrangling part I could not get the cellophane off the top of the box with the conveniently attached little plastic tab. You know the kind I am talking about: there is a little arrow pointing to the corner, and the words, “Lift here to open,” and it all sounds so easy, but secretly, and with great malice, the person who sealed this package attached the cellophane to the container with liquid nails, so that you are faced with no choice but to rip the cellophane back with a pair of pliers, thus causing an explosive shower of tofu water to rain down your arms. Or you could gently slice open the cellophane with a knife or a pair of scissors, which I am sure you are thinking right about now, but this did not cross my mind because I was so excited to get to the tofu, so excited that THIS was going to be the night I became a tofu convert, and I HAD TO! GET IT OPEN! RIGHT! NOW!
I won’t lie to you: I almost lost my nerve when the murky liquid sea of tofu drenched my arms and much of my counter, and I nearly gave in when I flopped the jiggling colorless rectangular mass onto my cutting board, but as I made the first slice it occurred to me that the tofu looked a little like cheese, and I like cheese, so, calmed by the likeness, I continued slicing. I followed the remainder of the recipe, which is clear and simple, no super secret tofu tricks hidden between the lines, and as I watched the thin slices turn golden brown and crispy I felt hopeful. I stared into the sizzling pan and saw the image of my daughter savoring a slice of protein laden soy-glazed goodness. No more dinner hour stress over what to prepare! Tofu would single-handedly save us from the freezer section! Hooray! I did a little dance as I prepared our plates and sat down at the table with joyful anticipation. Mia looked at the food before her and exclaimed, “Mmmmm,” because it did look pretty, and I replied, “Yes, mmmmmm,” and we each forked a piece of tofu while just outside our window a choir of angels sang the Hallelujah chorus.
And then my daughter politely removed the partially chewed tofu from her mouth, handed it to me, and calmly announced, “I no like dat,” and wiped her tongue with her sleeve. And although I was tempted, I did not remove the tofu from my own mouth, opting instead to continue chewing and chewing and chewing, and I went on to eat four whole slices of it out of sheer determination, and I’ll tell you something, people–in the end, I no like dat, either.
It is entirely possible that I did something terribly wrong in the execution of the recipe. It’s been known to happen. Often. But I don’t really think so, not this time. I think I just do not like tofu. I knew as soon as I decided to make Catherine’s recipe that I would be blogging about it today, but at the time I thought I would be singing the praises of tofu. I thought I would be penning a humble ode, not just to tofu but also to Catherine–that my post would be a gentle chuck on her shoulder in the form of a blog entry, a head-shaking “Gosh darn, that Catherine! I just knew I wouldn’t like tofu, but she convinced me to try it, and I was so wrong about it! I just love it! That Catherine is something….” And she is. But tofu? It is something else altogether, and what it is, for all intents and purposes, is a malevolently bland sea creature bobbing around, and I am throwing it back, and none of you will convince me to do otherwise.
Even so, I know you will try anyway. I welcome your recipes, your absolute convictions that yours is the recipe which will send me into tofu euphoria, so go ahead and share them, but keep this in mind: Catherine Newman led me unwillingly to the wonder that is the eggplant, and even she failed in the tofu department. I don’t hold it against her, though, and should I ever deign to try your tofu experiments, and when I continue to despise tofu afterwards, I won’t hold it against you, either.
*Edited 10/8/2015: Catherine writes regularly at Ben&Birdy, which I am happy to report is brimming with amazing recipes, book reviews, DIY tutorials, and Catherine’s same lovely voice that I have adored all these years.