Tofu by Any Other Name

Tofu with Yellow Bean and Spinach served with Brown Rice

If you are into words, and guess what? I am, then when you run across a word like tofu it gives you pause.

And in that I am also really into branding and imaging,  a little four-letter word like tofu becomes irresistibly challenging. There is sits in all of its stolid, plain jane glory, proclaiming loud as Popeye, I yam what I yam.

Which it so is not. Instead, it seems to be whatever you would will it to be.  Or whatever Mr. Wu wills it to be, which would be different from what our blog friend Bianca over at vegan crunk would wish it to be, vs, what I myself given world enough and time, will want  it to be.  As a foodstuff it possesses Harry Potter like transformative powers–marinate it, press it, blend it, presto!  Despite its unassuming name, tofu packs big voodoo.

Tofu. There the letters sit, forming a little toad of a word, just squatting there and waiting  to be kissed by a marketing genius and turned into a comely prince.

I’ve heard of a company that thought it sounded better spelled backwards than it did forwards. They had some pretty sound reasons for it–but speaking of sounds, for that very reason if applied to “tofu”, it  would only  exacerbate the problem. “Ufot” . No, that would not be good.

“Tofu–it’s the other white meat!” That phrase has already gone to the pigs.

Tonight I was contemplating  the tantalizing nature  of tofu–yes! tantalizing and tofu in the same sentence! we are getting somewhere! Alliteration has been known to cast a spell or two in its day.

When I arrived at Mr. Wu’s  on this blustery and chilly night, Mr. Wu had prepared his truly delectable melange of tofu and mixed vegetables. Now there is a powerhouse congregation of words– all singing loud and proud as a church choir,  “eat it it’s good for you”.

What to do with tofu, how to dress up its virtuous  and  sensible image  and vamp it up with a red dress and attitude?

Maybe you don’t. Maybe you couldn’t anyway.

Tofu has made a career out of what it is not.

I’ll never forget what Ruby Wharton said to me one time. We were walking out of a party at the bishop’s home, discussing someone with a well documented life history, and with her characteristic cut-to-the-chase way,  she said, “Well, you know what you got.”

Not with tofu though.

With tofu you never know.  Americans are not much charmed by foods or anything, that is not pretty straight-forward. We look askance at Yankee Doodle Dandy for sticking a feather in his hat and calling it macaroni, and folks who diddle around with tofu and call it this or that fall squarely into Yankee Doodle-ism.

Which puts me in mind of the current political brew of “”tea partiers”. Now who would have thought that tea drinking, which had been the bag of more bohemian types would get a boost from a conservative group? Imagine the uptick of the number of usages of the word “tea”  in this year’s list of most used words! What a boon for Lipton, and  bliss for Celestial–it would be an interesting topic for a thesis to do a study examining the effects of the constant commentary mentioning tea… my guess is that Fox News watchers will be the fastest growing demographic for tea consumption this year and next, just from hearing tea, tea, tea.

Could tofu overcome its wallflower image in common parlance if it was just out and about and seen and in the headlines more often, like so many talked-about celebrities who seem to have no unique talent to recommend them for stardom?

Could tofu have its agent call a network? Arrange a role in a  reality series? Wouldn’t  Paris Hilton be infatuated  with a new best friend who would assume total and unabashed “Paris-ness”? I mean, like, tofu totally has the skill set to take on like whatever! Tofu is hot.  Well. Maybe not.

What do you do with tofu?

Anything and everything.

It is what it is, and it isn’t what it is.

ah. I do love a conundrum.

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