The crumbly block of tofu that controls your whole life
A story about how much I suck at vegan cooking. And your brain.
I was vegan for three years.
Or, as Zenen would say, I was “vegan until drunk at a McDonald’s in Adams Morgan where I could steal someone else’s Big Mac.”
Back then, I was also very bad at cooking.
Actually, I was not great at anything that required more than three seconds of focus without scrolling.
This was a not a good cooking partnership with coop vegan cookbooks, the kind with sprouts on the cover, where All of the flavor comes from liquid smoke and nutritional yeast.
The first time I got a extra firm block of tofu, before I read any of instructions on what to do next, I rolled it out of the box and was like....
OK… What the fuck?
I was mystified.
How can I turn this blob into anything?
Of course I knew this was not just possible but common — my interest in learning to cook tofu at all was seeing the ways that friends (both weird coop white people vegan, and normal Chinese/Thai) prepared tofu.
I knew other people were able to make tofu in ways that were not just palatable, but also relatively simple and cheap.
They weren’t just making tofu scrambles of varying degrees of wateryness.
They were making like, full on deep-fried five course meals out of tofu that they actually enjoyed eating.
So one day a friend gave me a recipe for tofu chocolate chip cookies, admittedly not something I was particularly desperate to make.
But she copied the recipe out of her cookbook by hand, so I figured, oh shit, I have to try this now.
The cookies were like all of my vegan recipe attempts.
Kind of watery, and blander than they should’ve been considering the ingredients.
Not bad, but considering the effort they took to make: kind of depressing.
And honestly, I had tried her cookies before: the texture, the taste, of those cookies was completely different from mine.
After a while, I just figured I didn’t have the ability, temperament, or time to make my tofu any different than my bummer tofu scrambles.
I eventually abandoned all pretense of being vegan, particularly when I moved to a non-rural location and I got into powerlifting. Then when I worked so much that most of my meals were purchased from a gas station, veganism no longer held the same appeal for me.
Now I am older and less consistently activated.
I’m not a great cook, but I am at least better at googling “how to cook _______” instead of winging it blindly until there’s pizza dough on the ceiling.
One day I had an empty fridge, a ton of chocolate chips, and extra firm tofu in the freezer.
I looked up “what to do with chocolate chips and tofu nothing else,” and…
You guessed it.
The same cookie recipe my friend had given me five years before.
So, I got to work.
This story would be better if I made them and they were the best thing I’ve ever eaten.
But that isn’t what happened.
The cookies were like… fine.
They were okay, for tofu cookies.
But they were a lot, a lot, better than the tofu scrambles I made for three years.
My previous assumption — I will never be able to cook tofu — was incorrect.
I have no idea what changed.
So many things are different in my life since the last time I had tried to make those cookies.
Maybe it was my overall cooking skills, the amount of time I spent reading the recipe, or just the fact that generally I’m a lot more patient than I used to be.
Maybe it was something I don’t even notice, like the fact that I don’t hold my breath all the time when I cook or read or do anything at all.
or maybe it was something completely outside of my control, like, I bought a different brand of tofu, or that freezing it helps with the consistency.
Whatever it was: my experience was completely different.
This week I’ve been reading a book on neuroscience by Rick Hanson, + I’ve been struck by his visceral descriptions of the human brain.
The amygdala is the size of an almond (isn’t that fucked up!?).
The pineal gland is even smaller.
And your brain?
The whole central cortex of your erratic chemical driven nervous system/consciousness?
He says that the whole freaking thing, no matter which neurons are firing,
It’s the same size as a big squishy block of extra firm tofu.
Reshaped and changing constantly with every neuron that fires.