Friday, January 29, 2010


I am no shrinking wallflower in the kitchen. I am comfortable and confident, a go-getter. I'm ready to take charge, try new things, be bold, be daring. I cook without fear. In fact, if there is one place in the world I am confident, it is in the kitchen.

Tofu enters the picture, and it's another thing entirely.

Since almost half my friends are vegetarian, I've done a lot of cooking with tofu. What else are they supposed to eat? I like the challenge of working with different ingredients, I like the versatility of tofu. I like the green movement it stands for, the nutritional benefits. I like the idea of it.

But tofu itself? I hate it.

I become a different chef when I'm cooking tofu. Instead of taking charge with reckless abandon, I turn into a hesitant, unsure cook. I want someone to tell me what to do- heck, sometimes I just want the tofu to tell me what to do. I become a sous-chef in my own kitchen.

And unfortunately, the tofu also ends up taking a hit in the process. Because I am always trying to use it as a substitute for a recipe that calls for meat.

If there's one thing I've learned about tofu it's this- what you see is not what you get. How in the world do people make this look appetizing? And why have so many healthy chefs insisted it's easy to work with?

On this attempt, I used coconut milk and red curry as a marinade for a block of medium-firm tofu. First mistake- I didn't press the water out of the tofu first. Second mistake- I should have used extra firm tofu. I don't understand what difference it makes.

Doesn't it look like the tofu is laughing at me? It must be amused that I served it on a bed of wild, not jasmine, rice.

So tofu makes me second guess. So I have to double check my recipe, fiddle with the oven temperatures, add things. So I hold my breath when I take my first bite, unsure of the results. I refuse to let it beat me to submission.

This tofu business just makes me crave real food even more. Luckily, I planned ahead and pulled camembert out of the fridge before I started the tofu abuse project of the day. Cheese and crackers never looked so good.

Run and hide, tofu. I'm going to be your master one of these days.

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