Saturday, January 29, 2011

caramelized tofu and oh-so sweet potatoes

I've decided to skip writing about The Great Bean Flop (i.e. pan-fried broad beans and kale gone wrong), which resulted only in a burnt pan, a dry end product requiring olive oil dousing and later on a whole lot of elbow grease to clean said pan. Instead I'm moving on to a much much more successful tofu-oriented recipe: caramelized tofu, no less! It came off Heidi's blog of course and in one of the listed comments a reader wrote it was the best-tasting tofu she (or he) had ever made, which I assumed had to be a hyperbole. But I kid you not, this is the tastiest tofu recipe I've ever made, and quite frankly, I right now can't think of any tofu I've had ever that I've liked better. Quite a statement, I know! I followed the 101 Cookbooks recipe to a T, apart from adding roasted sweet potatoes to the entire concoction, and her pictures are much lovelier than mine anyways, so I'll let you access that recipe yourself and instead insert here a few musings on tofu.

I recently received an email directing me towards a website railing against the dangers of soy--its a GMO monocrop-produced highly processed food item that is BAD FOR YOU and could HARM YOUR BODY in a number of different ways, the site said. Now I wholeheartedly agree that processed foods filled with chemicals and additives are one of the biggest health concerns facing our society today, but websites like this one bother me for two reasons (well three if you count the fact that this particular one was shamelessly trying to sell me something--vitamin pills--awesome).

First, I wonder how food concerns have become so focused on the health of our bodies as consumers while the health of the environment and the health of say, farm-workers and industrial laborers, are issues that have quietly dropped off the table. Doesn't it seem kind of selfish? Like maybe most people shop at Whole Foods and care about organic or non-GMO only so much as it lets them breath a little sigh of relief that they are perhaps exposed to one or two less cancer-causing agents in their everyday life? This is a reasonable desire on the part of the average Jane, but it makes me sad to think that food safety advocacy has been in part reduced to an appeal to our self-interest, rather than a multi-faceted issue that should be causing alarm and making us think not only about our own consumer-oriented bodies but also the bodies of those who grow our food, and the animals and plants that we want to sustain us.

Second, I am suspicious of anyone who is so all-or-nothing in his/her approach to nutrition and diet--to me these approaches scream of fads and trends that will eventually prove to be unsustainable for various reasons, or just plain wrong, and that a few years down the line will likely be overturned. I still stand by my mother's philosophy that most things eaten in moderation (including chocolate and ice-cream) are okay for you. I don't plan to eat soy products for breakfast lunch and dinner, but I also don't think that an occasional tofu stir fry is going to make me infertile. Bottom line, as a student immersed in the world of scientific inquiry, I am all too familiar with the limitations of most scientific "randomized trials" and very wary of all those who cherry-pick findings and warp them to suit their championed cause. Just because a study has been peer-reviewed, doesn't mean it can't be misinterpreted and inaccurately yielded by the crazies. So I'm going to eat some tofu. and some bread. and chocolate. and I'm going to try to buy as much of it local, package-less, pesticide-free and farm-animal friendly as I can. and put it in re-usable cloth bags. and then I'm going to try to stop worrying about it all for long enough to enjoy what i'm cooking and make it tasty and pretty. and that's my soy rant for now.

1 comment:

  1. I know this recipe!!!! It's my favorite. SO good. And yes, I too have heard the soy debates. It's really confusing to navigate in my opinion and I really don't know who to trust. I've decided that I won't bother with all the soy products (milk, veggie deli slices, etc)and try not to overdose on tofu -- given that I'm not a vegetarian and I don't have any dairy sensitivities, this isn't a big shift for me. When I do have tofu, it's more likely than not going to be this beyond yummy tofu-brussels stir fry. Even the tofu-hating husband loves it.