The tofu story never gets old

Recently at a checkout counter, I was reminded of the gulf between consumers, cuisines and cultures. The young Asian gentleman behind me queried the clerk about the origins of tofu. He thought it came from goat’s milk!

If there was ever a moment designed for me to jump in, this was it. He was incredulous to learn that tofu is made from soaked soybeans which are mashed to produce soymilk. When a coagulant is added, the milk curdles – just like cheese – and the curds are then pressed into blocks. Depending on the water content, the consistency can range from soft, firm to extra-firm for a variety of uses.

That was the end of our conversation but not the story of tofu. The word “tofu” is Japanese in origin, but it sounds very similar to the Mandarin word of “doufu.” Any Google search will reveal how the Chinese culture revered the five sacred grains. While the soybean is not technically a grain, it was held in high esteem along with rice, wheat, barley and millet.

Tofu can be traced all the way back to the second century B.C. Everything old seems new again.