Tofu is not the Enemy

Tofu is a bad word for a lot of people.  Just the mere mention of the substance conjures images of hippies and natural food stores and other typical left leaning stereotypes.  I am sure Subaru Outbacks, Volvo Wagons, hemp shirts, and Birkenstocks are part of the iconography.

I have never really understood the visceral hate for tofu that a large swath of the American eating public harbors.  For the most part, it’s innocuous.  It takes on the flavor of whatever it is cooked with quite well.  It can be fried, which is a requirement for a lot of American cuisine.  It provides protein without the harmful health effects or ethical concerns of animal protein.  I am really missing why it is so disliked.

If I had asked my five year old daughter if she wanted tofu, I would have gotten an off look.  Why?  Because it was an unknown.  But, dredge cubes of extra-firm tofu in flour, pan sear those cubes in a little oil until crispy, and serve with a Chinese-inspired sauce like caramel fish sauce or General Tso…I guarantee that the stuff will disappear.  How do I know?  I watched my daughter—who turns her nose up at beef, chicken, and most pork without any prodding from mom or dad—wolf down her plate and proclaim how she loved the chicken.  Informed that it was not really chicken but vegetables only heightened her love.  Now we make “vegetable chicken” once a week.  Even my tofu-averse wife is a fan when it is prepared this way.

My nearly two year old son just eats everything on his plate, points at a cube of tofu on our plate, and cries out, “Meat!”

This is all part of my effort to move my family almost totally away from eating meat like beef, chicken, turkey, or pork.  Most of that meat is produced in just terrible ways—witness the industry’s attempt to silence activists who document animal abuse through the passage of “ag gag” laws—and the production of meat is a potent force in terms of environmental degradation.  Don’t believe your pork chop is bad news for the planet?  Drive by a CAFO on a sweltering summer day in Iowa, take a whiff, and tell me that there is not bad stuff going down.

Sure, the production of soy beans is not all roses but it is a far cry better than how most animals are raised for meat.

If vegetable based proteins are not the enemy, maybe ground turkey is the enemy.  Never mind the horrific conditions that these animals live and die in; the end product is essentially filled with bacteria from shit.  To be all scientific, the meat is usually tainted with salmonella, E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus and enterococcus.  Somehow, I do not think the term “poop burger” is going to take off anytime soon.

Just like the shocked meat industry person in Fast Food Nation said, “There’s shit in the meat?”


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