Tantalizing tofu and veggie delight

By DailyCollegian.com Staff

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This past September, after I was teetering on the edge of making the decision to be a full-on vegetarian, I finally decided to just go for it. I’ve been a supporter for quite some time of animal rights. I don’t wear fur, and knowing about the treatment of some unfortunate cows and cluckers has always been a bit of a turnoff. Trust me, when you see how that oinker was made to oink no more, you would reconsider bacon as much as the next veggie lover.

Over the past six months or so, ever since I made the transition over to the land of tree huggers and granola crunchers, reactions from others have been a little bit less than understanding. “You’re a vegetarian! How do you do it? (as though I’m abstaining from sex), I could never do that, I’m a complete carnivore. That sounds awful, don’t you miss meat?” (as though I’m a recovering alcoholic with friends that still drink and somehow I’m the enemy lurking on their partying with disapproval).

Now, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I do miss meat. I used to enjoy steak once in a while, and curry tastes great with chicken. I even find myself still clinging to tuna fish sandwiches, because somehow my brain refuses to see fish in the same category as sad baby cows. You could say I’m a pescatarian, the alternative to being a strict veggie and still obtaining some of my nutrients from a sushi roll here and there. But do I constantly regret my decision and find myself starving for iron, protein and anything that actually tastes good?  Well, surprisingly no.

In fact, you could say that abstaining from meat was one of the best culinary decisions I’ve made in years. As someone who loves to cook more than kittens love catnip, I found the ultimate high in exploring a whole new world of taste bud possibilities. My search for fun and interesting recipes and restaurant menu choices has surprisingly doubled in results than when I was simply throwing a slab of meat in the center of a plate and thinking, “This is the focus of my meal, and everything else can just be its friend.”

Going out to eat used to be a painful experience for vegetarians, but this is no longer the case because many more people are choosing this lifestyle.

One thing I said I would never try in my life, and that I couldn’t bear to think about eating, is tofu – an almost crumbly, somewhat tasteless and rubbery substance made out of soy beans processed and molded into a block.

 So when did I give in? When I was at the local campus café we know and love, Blue Wall, and I decided the noodle bowl looked too good to pass up. I had recently seen on Food Network that tofu was virtuously tasteless, but it completely takes in the flavors of whatever spices and food you throw in with it. I knew that if I really was going to get serious about staying a vegetarian, I had to keep finding sources of protein and the noodle bowl with curry broth seemed to be the way to go. As I took up my fork I dove right in.  It was like a curry fantasy had burst in my mouth. The texture of the cooked tofu wasn’t bad. In fact, the flavor had completely taken over the tofu and I was absolutely in love. 

I spent the next two weeks buying blocks of it from Trader Joe’s and seeing how I could incorporate it into salads and stir fries. The possibilities are quite endless, and buying it is relatively cheap; one eight-ounce block is less than two bucks at the health food store. 

Too nervous to make the leap and attempt to cook it yourself? Go grab a noodle bowl or search the dining hall salad bar to get a preview of this mystery food.

Today, people are trying to make healthy choices outside of their own kitchen and flock to the restaurants to do so. Foodies tend to order new and exciting options off of restaurant menus. The New York Times recently published an article about all the amazingly delicious and fun veggie burgers that New York restaurants are making in their own kitchens from scratch. They are no longer the cardboard frozen hockey pucks made from buckwheat that my ’60s hippie Nana used to pour water on to hydrate and choke down. Veggie burgers can be made from tasty legumes like lentils, black beans and chickpeas. These teamed up with yummy sauces and veggie-friendly ingredients are as savory as an Angus patty and a lot healthier for the digestive system.

For all you pizza lovers out there, Antonio’s always has multiple options to choose from, and all delicious for the vegetarian diet. The avocado quesadilla is my favorite, with creamy crunchiness sprinkled into one masterpiece. Or, if you like new scenery, imagine going to Northampton where the hippies roam free, and seeing the sort of culinary delights they come up with. The falafel sandwich at Yellow Sofa Café immediately comes to my hungry mind.

So the next time you’re thinking about making a temporary or long-lasting diet, I say just try it. Try it for a week, a month or only for a night when making a trip to Judie’s where there are quite a few options (one of which being the yummiest veggie potato skins I’ve ever eaten; you won’t miss the bacon with this one!). You just might find out that you will not have less of a  tasty diet and that your love for stranger food combinations will only increase.

Ashley O’Neil is a Collegian contributor.