Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"You Can't Tell Me This Is Yogurt?"

I love the way family mythologies develop. Apparently the first time Lon's Mom saw a TCBY shop, she assumed - being originally from Minneapolis - that the acronym stood for "Twin Cities Best Yogurt." But somewhere along the line in the numerous retellings of the story, I got it in my head that she went into the shop and, upon sampling their wares, declared "You can't tell me this is yogurt!?" I've called it that myself ever since.

Forget the fact that the story, as I remember it, doesn't even make sense as the name of the business is not YCTMTIY. I think I just like the image I had of her taking a taste, then with the spoon suspended in mid-air, making that exclamation, a stunned expression on her face. 

I would like to think that if I were to offer someone a spoonful of my typical morning breakfast that they would have a similarly incredulous reaction, at which point I would reply somewhat triumphantly, "You are correct! That isn't yogurt. It's tofu!

Tofu isn't as alien as it was in America's kitchens a few decades ago but I'm surprised by how it is still met with suspicion. Even mentioning it can really bring out the food-a-phobe in some people. Its constant presence in my refrigerator has so spooked a certain friend of mine that she immediately asks "What's in this?" every time I offer her something. Granted she was unknowingly a tofu test subject years ago when I was still figuring out how to use the stuff. The dish in question was a blueberry creme brulee, made with tofu, that tasted, and looked, like Kaopectate. 

I've learned many lessons in the kitchen since then, and of them is do not try to substitute something for which there really is no substitute. Sure there are a variety of dairy-like products on the market now, and I understand that calling a creme brulee made with tofu "curd brulee" sounds rather unappetizing on a number of levels. 

That's why I prefer to say that I have a smoothie for breakfast, instead of saying "I have a sort of tofu yogurt-like thing." Besides, when I describe it that way, I occasionally get asked, "Oh, you mean Tofutti?" 

My breakfast smoothie is made from extra firm tofu and whatever fruit and fruit juice I happen to have in the house at the time. I like the fact that I can vary its consistency by letting the whole thing whir around in the mini-food processor longer, or by adding more banana slices. 

Forgetting flavor for a second, I just have to say that the longer it mixes, the better it looks.

That's a picture of this morning's version, above. I usually don't have sliced banana resting on top but I thought I'd gussy it up for its photo shoot. Incidentally, someone asked me this past weekend, when they learned that I had written a book about kitchen history and occasionally wrote about food-related topics if I "got to work with food stylists." 

As the iPhone-snapped photo above clearly displays, the answer is obviously "no."

Without further ado, here's my recipe for my morning smoothie. It's also my first official posting for a Vegan Tuesday. I'll write more about why I keep a vegan diet on Tuesday each week later in case anyone has ever considered making the switch, one day a week. But until then, here's a quick way to help you get started.

The "You Can't Tell Me This Is Yogurt" Breakfast Smoothie

1/2 cup soy milk (I prefer the light, vanilla-flavored version.)
1/2 cup pomegranate juice (I've been using this juice because the gigantic bottle of POM from Costco is so damn cheap, but any fruit juice that doesn't have extra sugar added will do.)
1 cup extra firm tofu, cubed (If you buy the small box - the $1.29-priced size - of tofu this will be the equivalent of about a quarter of the slab.)
1 medium banana, sliced (This entire recipe can be adjusted to your personal tastes but I would leave the banana in as it helps with the smoothie's consistency.)
1/4 cup strawberries
1/4 cup blueberries (Any fruit will do, but if it's an apple or plum or peach just remove the seeds/ pit/ core.)

1. Put all ingredients in a blender or small food processor and let 'er rip. I advise blending thoroughly otherwise you can end up with little grainy bits of tofu. I don't mind them, but they have an annoying habit of sticking to your glass and to the mixer and they're difficult to dislodge. 

NOTE: If you want something thicker, something that you can eat with a spoon, cut back on the amount of soy milk or fruit juice and add more banana slices. You can also add 1/4 cup of walnuts or almonds to thicken it, but just remember to chew for god's sake. I don't want someone choking before they even get out the door in the morning. If you want something that you can carry around in a glass as you get ready to start your day - as opposed to sitting at a table and eating with a spoon - I suggest adding more liquids. 

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