Tofu for Dinner - Meatless Monday with Katie Cizewski

When I was in the seventh grade it was my greatest pleasure to displease my superiors, whether they be my mom, my teachers, or the security guards at the mall, I reveled in infuriating them all.  I had a partner on this mission named Priscilla.  We would sit together at lunch, munching on tater tots and brainstorming about what to do next.  On one of these occasions, on Ash Wednesday to be exact, we devised the perfect plan.  Hit by a sudden wave of devotion, we decided to practice Lent this year - the first time ever for the two of us non-Catholics - by making two very big sacrifices.  I would give up eating meat and Priscilla would give up brushing her teeth.  What that meant for me as a seventh grader was that my mom, the cook, would have to learn a whole new repertoire of recipes suited for a vegetarian and then make two different diners every night, one for me and one for her.  What this meant for Priscilla was, well - yuck!  Her mom would not be happy.

I broke the news of my newfound piety to my mother that night when she picked me up from volleyball practice, "Mom, as you know it's Lent."  "It is?" she asked.  "Yes," I replied, "and I'm giving up meat for God.  We will have to go food shopping and we might even have to buy some new pots and pans."  "OK, we'll just stop at the Super Fresh; it's on the way."  She didn't seem mad at all.  Why wasn't my plan working?  At the store she picked up a single filet mignon from the meat counter and a package of watery tofu from the refrigerated section.  That's what I'll be eating?  Clearly I had not thought this through.

That night my mom made dinner just as usual, with one small addition.  After everything else was done she sliced a chunk of wet tofu off the block and slid it into a pan with some bar-b-q sauce.  After the tofu warmed up she put it on my plate with the scalloped potatoes and the haricot verts where the filet would have been.  For the next few nights I ate the exact same tofu preparation while the sides and her protein changed.  She had got me; this joke was on me.

Needless to say, Priscilla's plan backfired even worse.  No one noticed that she hadn't brushed her teeth in two days except her - and she didn't like it one bit - so she gave in and brushed them on day three.

My new-found vegetarianism, however, lasted for many years.  I eventually took it upon myself to search out more interesting and flavorful tofu preparations.  For a few years there was a vegan cheese steak restaurant in Philly that really satisfied the meat craving.  After that closed I discovered a few brands of meatless crumbles that make a great vegan meat sauce.  And then there's deep fried tofu with Thai peanut sauce.  And spicy tofu stir-fry with bok choy, spinach tofu quiche, Japanese agegashi tofu, and tofu ravioli.  The list goes on.  And the tofu itself comes in a good number of varieties.  Extra firm tofu is my favorite to cook with.  What are your favorite tofu dishes?