Tofu Goes West

So last Friday, I made dinner for the three of us. It was a new recipe and had all the components that I thought we’d enjoy: chicken thighs, brie, pear, fig jam, seasoned, chopped lettuce, great bread. Instead it turned out to be a big yuck—a drippy, sweet sandwich that none of us liked. Virginia was the first to bow out. Gamely, after the first disastrous bite, she divided the sandwich into its separate parts and tried to each one separately. No dice. She argued for a new dinner, but I refused—I already made dinner. She pushed her plate away in a huff. Josh got a little farther. He was starving, and probably could have made a meal out of his left arm, but instead went for the yucky sandwich first. He got through half before pushing his plate away and then raiding the refrigerator for the last piece of pizza from the night before. I, on the other hand, ate the entire sandwich. The whole thing. Every bite. This is totally out of character for me.

When I was Virginia’s age, my mom (who is a great cook) made dinners that I ate about half the time. I hardly ever ate dinner, and it wasn’t because I wasn’t hungry. It was the late 1970s and early 1980s, and my mom was a health nut back when baby boomers seriously considered carob as a substitute for chocolate. My mom’s favorite grocery store was a crunchy health food store, and her favorite cookbook was Tofu Goes West. Let’s just let that sink in and marinate for a little bit. Tofu Goes West. Remember when Seinfeld’s wife wrote a cookbook about how to sneak broccoli into everything to make your kid eat broccoli? Well, Tofu Goes West, wasn’t so much sneaking tofu in, but saying “Hey, guess who’s in this burrito? You guessed it—it’s tofu!” The tofu in these recipes “hide” tofu like a 2-year-old “hides” during a game of hide-and-seek. My mom managed to sneak tofu into and subsequently ruin everything that I had previously considered edible. Or even delicious. Burritos. Stir fry. Lasagna. Meatballs. Soup. I was pissed. I looked just like Virginia looked after she took her first bite of that awful figgy-brie-pear-chicken sandwich. And like her, I went no farther. I pushed my plate away night after night, simply because I didn’t like what was served, even if it was prepared beautifully and exactly according to the recipe. I didn’t consider that my mother might have put in some serious effort to cook it. I was not wasting precious time eating something I hated.

I am not that girl anymore. As I put together our weekly dinner menu, I picked the yucky sandwich recipe out of the latest issue of Cooking Light, a magazine that has successfully provided dozens of yummy recipes for meals that wowed the three of us. I chose and bought each ingredient. I know how much a jar of fig jam and good brie cost. I cooked those chicken thighs to perfection and waited for them to rest. I even stopped Josh from eating that pear. “No,” I scolded. “That’s for Friday night’s dinner.” I assembled the sandwich’s components and placed each sandwich back on the grill pan, where I flattened them on a large grill pan, creating the grill marks and allowing the sandwiches to blend and smoosh together into what should have been its delicious glory. In short, I knew exactly what went into making those horrible sandwiches, and because of that, I ate it. Maybe I ate the sandwich to make up for all of the tofu dishes I didn’t eat that my mom served up to me. Maybe I’m just making amends to my poor, unappreciated mother. Or maybe I’m just wrong and just should have made The Girl a grilled cheese sandwich.

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