I called a friend.

Louie had a head of haystack hair. His fungible brother, Sonny, had lose curls.

Louie quit school and moved to Alaska to live that life. He’s still up there. Somewhere.

Sonny swore off meat in the 1970s with a commercial hamburger as his last meaty meal.

He probably cheated, since he cheated at horseshoes, but 1974 began something new.

A creative artist and individual, he introduced me to tofu. I’d eaten it in Asian food but didn’t know what bean curd was.

It is a good, clean, cheap protein and the rest of the world knows how to make it. Tofu tastes like whatever it is cooked with.

In this regard tofu is like “poi,” a gray-purple goo that reminds me of wallpaper glue. Poi is eaten with your fingers by dipping them into a bowl of it. It doesn’t have much of a fan club outside of Hawaii.

Poi tastes like the last thing you touched.

It is good for you, they say. If you attend a luau you can try it or stand out. People snicker at picky eaters.

Tofu is made of soy milk, easily made from soy beans. Directions are widely available.

A coagulant added to soy milk separates the curds from the whey. The curds are pressed into a solid. That’s tofu.

Sonny made things from scratch. He had goats and made cheese from their milk, then used his cheese press for the tofu. He was always experimenting.

I looked him up. He still has goats, makes cheese and tofu now and then.

Some vegetarians make tofu at home and convert it into crumbles of textured soy protein (TSP) for burgers or other dishes requiring ground beef.

I’ve had a bag of TSP hiding in the pantry for a time when the Kansas Woman wasn’t looking. Last night I used it for chili and was surprised at the results. In texture and taste it worked.

What’s next? Lasagna, spaghetti sauce, tacos?

I’m not a candidate for “meatless” but wouldn’t mind tapering if the alternative works well.

How would I substitute anything for a rack of hickory smoked ribs or sausage for my biscuits? Could I make a chicken-less chicken salad?

One of the burger stores sells a meatless hamburger that fooled me. I could become a believer.

With meat prices stepping up people might start looking for alternatives and TSP could be it.

If it ever became necessary to replace meat to feed a community you could feed the whole county with the TSP you could make from a grain truck of soybeans.

Kansas people think of soybeans as cattle feed. I’ve only known one farmer who ate soybeans and doubt he’s making tofu.

I’ve got a Kansas farmer’s daughter who is not big on the idea.

Maybe I can change her mind.


Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He can be reached at joenphillips@hotmail.com.

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