A toast to tofu

In high school, I became vegetarian for the wrong reasons--to be different, to bug my parents, and to carve out an identity for myself.

Admittedly, these were all selfish reasons for taking on something that requires ample knowledge of nutrition, not to mention strong opinions about the consumption of animals. But, thanks mostly to my mother's cooking, I managed to remain vegetarian until my second year at Queen's. More specifically, until homecoming weekend when I scarfed down a chicken burger at Stooley's. Thus ended my misguided venture into vegetarianism.

But one thing that has stayed with me since I started eating meat again is my love for that misunderstood soy byproduct, tofu. I don't understand why so many people have a hate-on for this remarkable food item. Not only is it versatile, it's a healthy alternative to meat. Tofu is high in protein, low in calories and has no cholesterol. It's made by coagulating soy milk, a practice from China that dates back to the second century BC.

I use tofu in most of my cooking, and I always have some in my fridge which I can eat raw as a snack.

But I, too, was once bewildered by tofu. The odourless and tasteless qualities, its squishy texture, and the fact that most people have no idea where it comes from or how its made make it unsettling, to say the least. I've even heard some call tofu “disgusting,” which I can understand. It's only when you forget your apprehension, throw caution to the wind, and take that first bite of tofu that you can truly learn to appreciate its many values.

It's soft tofu that really has the worst reputation. Compared to firm tofu, the soft variety has a really squishy texture and is more difficult to cook with. This is the stuff that bewildered me the most when I first started to incorporate tofu into my diet. Like a lot of food that's known to be good for your health, I didn't want to eat it. But I figured it would be better than eating meat, or “dead animal” as I referred to it. Nowadays I seriously don't know what I'd do without it. Most of the food I prepare, in fact, has tofu in it--pasta dishes, stir-fries, sandwiches, etc.

Had it not been for my attempt at the vegetarian lifestyle, I probably wouldn't be so inclined to eat tofu as often as I do today. It's too bad that tofu is associated almost exclusively with the vegetarian diet, though it is becoming more popular. Tofu is available at nearly every supermarket, usually conspicuously close to the veggie burgers and other non-meat items. But it's not just for those who refrain from eating meat--

anyone can enjoy this food.

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