When I was in Grade 4, I made up a skipping rhyme about tofu for a creative writing assignment. Growing up in what was then a very German Kitchener, no one in my class knew what tofu was. I had the unfortunate experience of trying the stuff when my mom brought some home from a night course she was taking at OISE for her master's degree. Her professor was a hippie who treated his students to a vegan meal at the end of the term. My mom got the leftovers. Among them was tofu and seaweed stew, which made my nose wrinkle. I had never heard of tofu and seaweed conjured images of the slimy stuff that harboured all kinds of mysterious underwater life in the lake at our cottage. The stew was nothing short of awful, thanks to my myopic tastebuds and an imagination run amok about the seaweed patch around which I made a wide berth when swimming. Still, I did realize tofu had some purpose. Said at just the right cadence, it was the perfect word to jump rope to. My creative writing teacher seemed to agree, at least with the last sentiment. As a reward for invoking the staple of a vegetarian diet, I got to perform my skipping rhyme for my class and the Grade 3 students. It went like this: 1, 2 Eat Tofu Eat Tofu, it's good for you 1, 2 Eat Tofu. If you're amazed I grew up to become a (paid) writer, I kind of am, too, at the moment. But not as amazed as I am that I grew up to become a tofu-loving vegetarian. Here's the deal, though. My tofu has to be marinated and saucy, a player in soups and stews, stir-fries and smoothies. But never, ever plain. Until now. I found a recipe by Ricardo for tofu cheeseburgers that calls simply for plain, grilled tofu topped with cheddar and arugula, salt and pepper. A good match, really, when I think about tofu's mild — alright, bland — taste. It needs the strong flavours of cheddar and arugula to carry the team. And that they do. Even better when I swapped regular tofu (I adore Ying-Ying Soy Foods version, which is handmade in Mississauga and available locally through the Niagara Local Food Co-op) with Soyganic's smoked version. A dollop of sriracha aioli on top makes this my go-to veg burger for the summer. I've had these burgers three times in the past month and experience has taught me that plain tofu brushed with a bit of liquid smoke works, too. While the meat eaters among us might scoff that I'm raving about a tofu cheeseburger, one look at the photo above shows it's a thing of beauty and it's a beast with its double patty. I've also dusted off that old skipping rhyme. It's now the anthem of barbecue season around here.
Editor's note: This post was written in partnership with Ricardo Cuisine. Ricardo Cuisine had no editorial input, however.