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In defense of Tofu

by Corrin Strong
Clarion Publisher

"To the American mind, the concept of 'bean curd' dredges up a phantasmal orgy of nightmarish images of foul-smelling cheeses and large, hairy spiders."

1/25/96 Clarion News Service.
Tofu has been getting a bad rap. This delicious and nutritious food has been the butt of more bad jokes than Dan Quayle. I realized things were getting out of hand, recently, when tofu showed up in a column by humorist Dave Barry. (I'm not making this up!)
I'd be willing to bet that the majority of people who make fun of tofu have never even tasted it. Tofu, a mainstay of Chinese cooking for centuries, is a high protein, low fat, low carbohydrate, no cholesterol food derived from that good old American farm product the soybean.
Alone it is practically tasteless, but it readily absorbs the flavor of whatever it is cooked with. Because of it's chewy texture it can be made to taste remarkably like chicken or other meat products, and as an ingredient in a vegetable stir fry (my personal favorite) it is delectable.
And yet the stigma seems almost universal. If your children are anything like mine, they will roll their eyes and turn up their noses at the mere mention of the word. Why is this?
My own theory is that the problem is largely linguistic and stems from what I call the "Little Miss Muffet Syndrome." You remember the poor lass who had the misfortune of having an arachnid sit down beside her.
It seems that at the time she was eating "curds and whey", something we don't do much anymore. (Come to think of it we don't sit around on tuffets much either.) Not many people could even tell you what curds are except that they have something to do with "curdling," the process by which milk turns sour and nasty.
Although tofu has very little to do with all this, if someone is open-minded enough to ask just what exactly tofu is, unfortunately, the almost universal answer is, "You know, bean curd." This is no help at all.
To the American mind , the concept of "bean curd" dredges up a phantasmal orgy of nightmarish images of foul-smelling cheeses and large hairy spiders. No wonder they run screaming for the exits.
The reputation of tofu was further damaged by the publication of a book some years ago titled, "Real men don't eat quiche." Although the book had nothing to do with tofu, it was about a foul-smelling food with a funny sounding foreign name, and somehow (again probably based on the Miss Muffet factor) people seemed to make a connection.
I discovered this recently when I asked a young friend to stop by Wegmans, and pick up a pack of my favorite ready-to-eat snack, Soy Boy's Tofu Lin, "a flavorfully marinated and baked organic tofu," as it says on the package. This person (who's name and sex will be withheld for his own protection), looked at me in utter terror and said, "But what if somebody sees me buying it?" (Again, I'm not making this up.)
He finally did return with the tofu and his manhood still largely intact, but only after having to explain to the checkout girl that the tofu really wasn't for him. It's time we put an end to this paranoia!
As a confirmed tofu-eater I 'm going to let you in on a little secret. Not only is tofu great tasting and good for you, it also does wonders for your sex life. In fact, there is a secret Chinese sect of tofu imbibers who. . . but that's another story. Suffice is to say that, "Real men do eat tofu." Just ask me!

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