A few of my more faithful supporters have noted that Tofu-Jo posts are terribly slow in coming just now. I admit it. I confess. Since coming back from Japan my tiny tofu-mind has been blown to smithereens. In a good way. I’m going to explain all that in a blog. Really. I am.
Meantime, to get myself rolling again, I’ve decided to answer Martin’s question of some weeks ago and try to explain how it all started…
Somehow, about thirty years ago, shortly after reading Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”, I stumbled upon “The Book of Tofu” and got hooked. It’s a funny little volume. Densely packed text, b&w sketches, recipes and a thorough but fascinating account of just about every aspect of tofu you could possibly wonder about. I was a vegetarian, had eaten a fair bit of tofu-inspired gado gado in Indonesia and maybe a few by-default tofu dishes in Chinese restaurants in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. Otherwise I was a complete newbie to the magical soybean.
“The Book” inspired me to start messing about making tofu in my Machans Beach kitchen. And inevitably feeding the upshot to my ever-cooperative spouse and willing friends. Friends asked, (as they do), ‘how-is-it-done’? Eventually I ran a few little workshops through the local natural therapies school demonstrating the home-tofu-making process and blowing the the attendees’ socks off with a 5 course tofu meal (well, they were hippies after all…).
Everyone was fascinated, everyone wanted more, no-one wanted to make their own.
So, ever a sucker for a bit of flattery, I up-scaled my equipment a tad, bought a sack of locally grown soybeans and started producing a few kilos of tofu each week for friends. And then for friends of friends. Word got around and demand quickly outstripped our equipment and logistics. It was time to go public.
Back then (we are talking a loooong time ago) we lived in the tropical paradise of Cairns. Rusty’s market was already a local institution – everyone shopped at Rusty’s for fabulous fresh tropical fruits and amazing arrays of vegetables. And tofu. Soon we were making 50-60 kilos of tofu on a Friday and selling it all at the market soon after dawn on Saturday morning.
Our tofu was surprisingly popular – not just with the thriving hippy crowd but pretty much people of every persuasion. Healthy eating. Asian cooking. Vegetarians. Vegan. Quick, convenient meals. Versatile ingredients. Variety.
We might say now that tofu ‘ticks a lot of boxes’ (but we didn’t talk like that then…).
Pretty soon we agreed to do another tofu session mid-week to stock the local health food stores and supply the up-market Japanese restaurant in town. Tofu-making was taking over our already busy lives. We knew we were on to something and wanted to set it free (quaint? yeah well, we were all hippies in those days). So, following a brand of deranged logic unique to Jo and Charles, we ended up selling the whole activity to some enthusiastic locals with time on their hands.
Older and fractionally wiser now, I know that some varieties of enthusiasm don’t readily translate to hard work. The whole enterprise was over within a few months. The new owners are possibly still wondering what happened. It was a bit sad to see our fledgling die but, by this stage, we’d moved on and tofu was to be left behind us for many years. I didn’t stop thinking about it, and we didn’t stop yearning for delicious, fresh tofu but making small amounts with standard kitchen equipment isn’t that inspiring.
Nor is buying tough little bricks of tofu in vacuum-packed plastic with a use-by date way off in the future. There’s got to be a better way… Wait. There is! Wahoo. A Sign…