I lost two of my most favourite things recently, one under mysterious circumstances, the other because of a stove top mishap for which I take complete responsibility.
My guilt and irresponsibility first:
Once upon a time, I got married. My husband and I decided against all the frills and floomph and icing that often characterizes weddings and got married at City Hall, with only two weeks notice given to our family and friends. There were no gift registry, no sign of a white dress within a 10-km radius, no bridesmaids, no groomsmen, and no flower children anywhere.
No stress, either.
We both wore black and there was no makeup to be found on either of us. We took our guests out for lunch afterwards; the lunch lasted till 5:30pm or so, at which point the restaurant kicked us out so they could begin serving dinner. We sent everyone away to fend for themselves as they saw fit.
We got gifts, in spite of our gift registry non-participation, among which was a whole amazing cartload of quality kitchenware, courtesy of my culinarily-minded mother-in-law. There was a soup pot. In this soup pot, many kinds of delicious soups, stews, curries, mashes, and purees have been concocted over the years.
Last week, I thought I’d add a sweet onion soup to this soup pot’s fabled history. I chopped an epic 8 cups of onion armed only with a knife and fully functioning tear glands. Everything was in the pot, cooking nicely, when I forgot to turn it off at the appropriate time. I got distracted by the lentils, or a cat climbing my back, or by seeing into another dimension, I don’t remember exactly. The point is, I got distracted, and the soup burned into an almost solid mass to the bottom of the pot.
Approximately 3 full bottles of Dawn, truckloads of very hot water, and my not inconsiderable arm muscles have been applied to the murdered soup pot. Steel wool and scrubby brushes have died in the carbonated trenches. The soup pot is gone.
A tragedy but a very minor tragedy; soup pots can be replaced, after all. What is more painful, complicated, and without remedy is that I have developed a sensitivity to soy.
When I think of all the tofu I won’t be eating both in the next little while and deep into the gaping maw of the foreseeable future, I want to cry just a little. You see, I had a long and beautiful relationship with soy, a relationship that began with the savoury culinary genius of Korean cuisine.
In 1999, Future Husband and I betook ourselves to South Korea to Experience Culture and Make Money. Also, to have an Exciting Adventure, generally. For me, one of the most exciting things was the food. My gawd, Korean food made me love eating in a way I had never previously dreamed of. My inner gourmand had already begun to develop, of course, but Korea accelerated the process to something approaching light speed. So many good dishes: pan chan of infinite variety (those are the lovely side dishes), but especially chap chae noodles and potato kimchi; dol sot bi bim bop, duk galbi, samgyeopsal, kimchi jigae; and my all time favourite, soon doo boo.
Soon doo boo is, simply, spicy silken tofu stew. It comprises silken tofu, lots o’ veggies (but especially onion and green onions), garlic, stock, sometimes meat, spicy red chili. It wasn’t vegetarian, but then neither was I. Living in a culture that doesn’t treat tofu as a replacement for anything but just as its own beautiful thing–that made me adore the stuff and made going vegan 5 years later much easier.
I’ve always gone for variety and I eat a lot of beans and lentils, but having tofu in the fridge in case of a laziness emergency has been crucial to my cooking and eating well for the past 9 years. And now the soy has dumped me; it thinks we don’t belong together.
I can certainly cook without it, and I’ve figured out a trick for replacing soy sauce in recipes that works for the most part (it doesn’t work in salad dressings, however; at least, it hasn’t yet): 2 tbsp soy sauce can be replaced with 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar and 1 tsp salt. This has worked beautifully in black bean sweet potato burgers and jerk chickpeas, to name two recent examples.
The problem that can’t be solved is miso. There might be soy-free miso somewhere but I can’t find it, and I suspect I wouldn’t be able to afford it anyway.
I’ve replaced soy milk with almond milk and rice milk and am perfectly happy; indeed, rice milk in tea turns out to be pretty much the best thing ever. It makes me want to revive the terrible and gut-destroying 10 cups of tea per day habit of my early university days. Ah, those days were the best–bad food in small quantities and a great deal of tea. I was like a character in a Dickens novel, except I was allowed to go to school. And I had shoes.
So, life goes on. I love to eat as much as I ever did but I do feel the terrible absence of certain dinnertime possibilities. I will share my tofu favourites with you, weep a little, and then forge bravely into my soy-free future.
Cumin Lime Tofu, Eat, Drink & Be Vegan!, Dreena Burton, p.126
- 1 lb extra firm tofu sliced or cubed
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1.5 tbsp agave nectar
- 1.5 tbsp tamari
- 3/4 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp curry powder
- 1/8 tsp allspice
- 2-3 pinches cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 2-3 tbsp pumpkin seeds OR pistachios, lightly crushed or chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl combine lime juice, agave, tamari, cumin, curry powder, allspice, cayenne, and sea salt. Spray medium-sized baking dish with cooking spray, if it’s not non-stick. Marinate tofu in sauce for 15 minutes to 1 hour before baking. Bake 15 minutes then flip tofu and cover with pumpkin seeds. Bake another 15 minutes.
Cumin lime tofu has been my tofu staple for the past 5 years or so, but before that, in my early days as a vegan learning to cook, there was this beautiful thing. Matthew, whoever and wherever you are, I will love you forever and ever.
Matthew’s Delicious Tofu, The Garden of Vegan, Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard, p.120
- 1 lb firm or extra firm tofu, cubed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
- 1 tsp Asian chili sauce
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tbsp tamari
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 cup dry roasted almonds, chopped small or crushed
In a medium saucepan on medium-high heat, saute the tofu in oil until browned. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the garlic, ginger, and chili. Saute for 5 minutes. Add the maple syrup, soy sauce, and lemon juice. Cover and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Garnish with almonds and rejoice.
Now then. Onward.