Friday, February 20, 2009

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: There is still tofu under his chair

Last night was sad. I'm no longer permitted to photograph my children crying, a most proper rule, but I'm still allowed to describe such events. Owen pitched an epic fit over Mark Bittman's Provencal tofu. There was much sobbing, histrionic self-pity, haranguing, spluttering rage. I thought I'd remember his choicest lines because there were some beauties, but have forgotten everything except: "I'll have tasted every food by the time I'm TWENTY. I want to eat NORMAL foods, but you cook me things that no one else in America has even HEARD of." Spoken between gales of weeping.

I do feel for him. I realize I've occasionally been horrible and borderline abusive in the cooking department and I regret that. But last night's meal was tasty and truly inoffensive -- cubes of mild tofu in a sweet tomato-and-pepper sauce. I just wanted Owen to try one tiny cube! I want him to grow up and be big and strong! Like Popeye!

Anyway, he slyly dropped the chosen tofu cube under his chair when he thought I wasn't looking. He apparently doesn't realize I invented that trick.

I wasn't going to punish him; I thought it was funny. But his pride was so wounded at being caught that he grew hysterical, and once he starts down that slide he stays for the whole ride and all we can do is watch and make sure he doesn't swallow his tongue. Poor little guy.

Like I say, the tofu: lovely. Isabel had seconds. Easy, inexpensive, healthy, and I'd make it again except, see above. 

Bittman's recipe for polenta was even better and will henceforth be my standard. By far the best polenta I've ever cooked was Barbara Kafka's recipe that calls for stirring a cup-and-a-half of cream into the cornmeal. Breathtaking, but you really do feel, to quote Rhoda Morgenstern, that you might as well spread it directly on your thighs. Bittman makes his polenta with a modest amount of milk mixed in with the cooking water, just enough to transform the dish from austere gruel into something you might actually crave.

Dessert was so fabulous it's getting its own dedicated post.


  1. i think you should surprise the lad tonight with an in an in and out cheeseburger with fries--after telling him you're serving haggis and explaining that it's only sheep's stomach.

  2. Bittman's recipe for polenta was even better and will henceforth be my standard.

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