Not even for you, BFF

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.

8 thoughts on “Not even for you, BFF

  1. Do not give up on tofu!! You absolutely need to find the right recipe but they are out there. I have a great Tofu Vindaloo recipe that made me love it more than ever – it involved sauteing the tofu first so it gets browned and then setting it aside and cooking the veggies and then adding it back in. And a gazillion spices don’t hurt. The MOST important thing I know about tofu is to use extra firm and FREEZE it first. After being frozen, tofu’s texture is WAY more likeable. Not at all slimy. Way better.

    Beck picks the tofu out and eats it before he eats the veggies. And I am proud. He will also eat it raw. Now I am just gloating. But then, vegan babies are a different breed than you and I.

  2. I am 99% sure that I can cook tofu that you will like. I would say 100% but that would be cocky. 😉

    I agree with pretty much everything Bri said, (saute first, then remove, use lots of flavoring agents, most babies raised on tofu will eat it raw but that’s a step too far for most adults NOT raised on it) but will add that even if you don’t have time to freeze it first, the more water you squeeze out of it, the better (if you didn’t learn about the amazing water-removing properties of freezing in library school, that’s what’s going on in the tofu-freezing). We usually rinse the block of tofu, wrap it in a towel, and put a weight on top of the towel. It squeezes out a lot of the water and makes the texture MUCH better.

    Can you send me that recipe? Despite your story, it sounds like it has potential.

  3. Hey there,

    Is there a way to contact you directly? I promise I am nice and have good intentions…but apparently I am mildly slow, for I can’t find an email address on your site.

    Please feel free to email me.

  4. i felt like i was in your kitchen when you were doing this and i am almost certain i heard little one saying “i no like that” before she wiped her tongue off. (omg. the imagery of that!!!).

  5. Ew ew ew ew ew ew. Tofu. Now I know you are shaking your head and saying “well, we all knew she is the pickiest eater ever put on this earth,” so this may not be suprising, but tofu is EVIL!!! I can eat anything soy, and although i am not very adventurous when it comes to food, I dont understand how people eat tofu.

    P.S. I would have quit when the evil celophane tried to attack you. Maybe it was really nice celophane trying to keep you from the evil tofu?

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