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butter or raw tofu block: from the sublime to the ridiculous…

Posted by on Feb 11, 2013 in Blog Posts | 18 comments

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporationfrom an old Oprah magazine:

The “fix” to eating mindlessly…

Take the tofu test. “As you grab a snack, ask yourself: Would I be hungry if it were a block of raw tofu? If the answer is no, you’re probably just eating out of boredom. Go for a walk instead!” From a PhD Psychologist at Stanford University

…and this from Cooks Illustrated Light Cook Book on replacing the fat in oatmeal cookies

fruit puree: too dry
egg whites: no flavor
light cream cheese: too thin and crisp

The Winner? Butter. After trying a number of fat substitues, we found that there was no beating butter. The secret was simply to ue less of it. Cookis made with a redulced portion of butter were still “thick and chewy” with a “balanced oat flavor…”

What do you think? Which is more affirming of joy, and the importance of taste and appetite. Is “grabbing” a block of tofu okay? Can’t you mindlessly eat tofu? The first tofu example is dangerously reductionist IMO. One of the key things we forget about (me too in my quick writing) is APPETITE. There is a lot of talk about eating only when you are hungry, so I guess the raw tofu test would work to assess if you were really hungry. (I personally would be on the brink of starvation before raw tofu sounded appealing…) To me, this is disordered thinking. It denies pleasure and nuance, and it’s just, well, silly.

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  1. Buddy

    Man, I can’t believe some of the things they publish. If I applied the raw tofu test, I’d probably go days without eating. Sometimes when I’m really hungry, it kind of circles around again to where nothing seems appetizing, or nothing but a few specific, usually calorie-dense foods.

    • katja

      I like how you noticed that too hungry for you leads to the calorie-dense food cravings… Biologically kinda makes sense, eh? When folks are food insecure or diet, that tends to be the experience as well…

  2. meerkat

    Can I have some soy sauce and ginger on the raw tofu? Because that is good. Hard to eat with chopsticks though.

    I’m not hungry right now because I just finished dinner but if someone brought me a plate of raw tofu I would totally eat it.

  3. cjmr

    I was just snacking on raw tofu as I cooked dinner this evening. I LOVE raw tofu.

  4. berele

    This is sort of a tangent, but as a former professional tofu maker, I just want to point out that by the time tofu is tofu, it’s already been cooked at least twice (once to extract the soymilk from the beans and once in the process of curdling the soymilk) , and if you’re buying it from a store, it’s also probably been pasteurized, and therefore cooked a third time.

    It’s definitely a ridiculous sentiment. Suggesting that you have to be hungry enough to eat something that’s seriously unpalatable to you to legitimately eat can’t be healthy. I mean, human culture developed cooking and food preparation for a good reason.

  5. Lindsay

    Agreed, the tofu thing is ridiculous, IMO. There are differences between being physically hungry, physically full and satisfied/”done.” There’s that noshy, full but not that full, need something else/something sweet feeling I get sometimes after a meal. I find that if I try to ignore it, I’ll end up going to get something else 1/2 hr or an hr after the meal anyway, so why not just eat it when I actually want it in the first place? I think being able to satisfy appetite in this way is what restrictive dieting rarely allows. You might be able to fulfill physical hunger minimally well, but that flexibility that stops obsessive food thought is gone. And then the failed dieter is called a failure for “emotional eating” in that case. Pleasure and nuance are important, like you said 🙂

    • katja

      Brilliant and totally true. I remember as I was really learning to tune in to my eating. I was at a Chinese restaurant, and was “full” but somehow still not satisfied. I was mulling over ordering more when the fortune cookie came. I ate it, looked at the menu more, and realized that was it. I was satisfied. I was totally surprised and fascinated by that discovery.

  6. Emerald

    Back in my teens, I recall having lunch at the house of a couple who were part of the Buddhist group I was in at the time. Not all of us were vegetarians – I wasn’t, and still am not, although I’m not a big carnivore and go meat-free maybe three or four days a week – but this couple was. Anyway, one of the dishes was a rather odd-looking concoction which I discovered, too late, was a casserole of beetroot (a vegetable I’ve always loathed – you’d have thought the colour would have given it away, but sadly not in this instance) and tofu, which up till then I’d never tasted. The tofu was in little cubes – for some reason, probably thinking of feta cheese, I expected it to have a more crumbly texture, and it was something of a shock to find it chewy. To give the lady credit, she’d cooked a number of other amazing dishes, including some great curries, and she baked the BEST wholewheat bread in the world ever…but since that day, I’ve never actually thought of tofu as a food, at all. If anyone has a way of eating the stuff that can convince me otherwise, do tell.

    Also, brownies – as I was telling someone else recently, way back during my most obsessive low-fat phase, I developed a craving for brownies which I’ve never experienced before or since, on the discovery that you could make them fat-free if you used mashed banana instead. Now mashed bananas have their uses – like in banana bread – but they do not act like fat when it comes to brownies. Is anyone here old enough to have played with those little dense rubber building bricks as a kid? Yep, you get it.

    • katja

      Ha! Love it! I’m all for, say, frozen pureed bananas, but because they are delicious, not bc they should replace ice-cream… It’s part of why the whole “Hungry Girl” thing makes me crazy. Trickery and substitutions. No thank you.

    • Jenny Islander

      I’m told that if you add bananas to a regular brownie recipe without taking out any of the fat, you get very dense, moist brownies.

      Anyway, the raw tofu test is rather ignorant because some people like raw tofu. According to the Just Hungry blog, really fresh raw tofu with a little seasoning, such as chopped chives, is a sublime meal for hot summer days. I can’t get really fresh tofu where I live and I don’t have the time to make it, so I couldn’t say.

      Anyway, I have found myself eating when not hungry, which leads to digestive trouble IME. Actually this was one of the good things I got from Weight Watchers: methods for figuring out whether I was hungry or not. The one that works for me is, “Was I thinking about eating this before I saw or smelled it?” If the answer is no, then I ask myself, “Am I falling into that old pattern where I clean up all the leftovers by using myself as a trash can?” If the answer to that one is yes, I fight back against the old pattern by reusing the leftovers in a recipe for everybody–or just putting them in the actual trash can. If I’m heading toward food just because it’s there but I don’t feel a need for food, then I think about what other refreshing thing I could do–a walk, a book, some music, switching tasks because whatever I’m doing is giving me the screaming boredom pangs? If I’m craving something sweet but I don’t feel hungry, I may actually be thirsty, which is a peculiar bit of cross-wiring that apparently a lot of people have.

      In short, in my experience, it’s about figuring out what my body is trying to tell me. I didn’t get to just eat when I was hungry and stop when I was done as a child, and it’s taken years to relearn how.

      • katja

        Great points about learning to tune in to what your body is telling you. People certainly do eat out of boredom, habit etc. I like how curious you are and how you ask yourself questions and check in.

  7. mickey

    Funnily enough I eat raw tofu all the time, though I prefer it baked, then cold in the fridge. If we’re having tofu in something, I’ll often snack on the cubes while preparing dinner. If I’m baking tofu to have with dinner, I’ll do more than needed for that meal, just so I have it for a snack later.

    And in my Gramma’s brownies, using only butter for the fat does not work. The brownies are hard and inedible. Using only oil doesn’t work either… nor does applesauce or shortening. All those end up with a gooey mess. The only thing that works is the spread that is a combination of olive oil and butter. It was a fun set of experiments to do to figure this out. 🙂

    • katja

      Delicious experiments! We found out I cooked the cupcakes too long, that cake flour really does make a difference, and that the silicone cupcake molds seem to work better for us!

  8. Ksol

    Considering that I actually like raw tofu, that might not be a good test of hunger, although it is a pretty silly test. I doubt I could eat tofu mindlessly, though.

    As for the butter, I find cookies work if I only replace part of it — half and half butter and applesauce is generally my preference. They turn out a little more cakey than crisp, but I like them that way. It’s all about finding balance.

    • katja

      Yes, balance sounds good! How do you eat raw tofu? I love little bits of tofu in miso soup… I think they were talking mostly about oatmeal cookies in this piece. The contrast just struck me, but I have nothing against cooking with apple-sauce. Taste has to be preserved and celebrated 🙂

      • Ksol

        I just slice it off the block and eat it, but I’ve always had oddball eating habits. As a kid, I loved to eat a handful of raw oatmeal, and I would wait until everyone else left the table to finish off the salad — sans dressing.