Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Keep the Chang

I went to our local Asian market to pick up some things for dinner:

Chili paste
Rice sticks
Snow peas
Brown mushrooms
Bean sprouts
Spicy soy sauce
Lime leaves (they never have them)
Pot stickers
Au Pair
Firm tofu

I managed to get most things on the list.

As I was checking out the cashier was in a good mood and quite chatty. The cashier and I are friends of sorts. She’s Mrs. Chang and I’m Mr. Bill.

“Looks like you’re going to cook a feast tonight, Mr. Bill,” Mrs. Chang observed as she scanned my purchases.

“Yep, I’m doing Chicken Pad Thai using leftover roast chicken and all this other stuff. I’m making shrimp tom yum soup, too.”

“What are you going to do with this?” Mrs. Chang held up the firm tofu.

“Well, I’m going to soak it in spicy soy sauce, then stir fry it in the wok and fold it in with the rice stick noodles at the end for the pad thai.”

“You eat tofu?” Mrs. Chang asked, cocking an eye.

“Yeah, it’s OK,” I replied with my Bat Sense on full alert.

Holy Soy Bean, Batman, what is this woman on about?

Calm down, Robin, I’m sure she’s harmless, unless...unless...


Too late.

Mrs. Chang told me all about tofu. “Nasty stuff,” she said, “feed to cat. Cat I don’t like!”

“Promise me,” Mrs. Chang continued, “you never buy this stuff again. You buy chicken or fresh fish. Tofu for cat!”

I paid for my shopping and worked my way home through the traffic and school zones.

That’s one thing about living in Houston. You learn where the school zones are and plot ways to avoid them. Of course, there’s an entire department of street planners who are on a mission to plug up shortcuts with school zone signs.

Well, they missed one and I can bypass three schools by snaking through a neighborhood disguised as a lawn mowing crew. I have to pull a trailer with lawn mowers, leaf blowers and half a dozen workers, but, hey, it’s worth saving 20 minutes or so crossing town.

So, I got home and reviewed my chicken pad thai recipe. Hmmmm, turns out that tofu is optional. It’s a filler. Not needed, exactly. The recipe works just dandy with chicken all by its own self.

Mrs. Chang’s words echoed in my head, “Tofu for cat.”

OK, well, I’ll just give Kink a treat, I thought.

“Yo, Kinkers!” I shouted, “wanna snack? Snacktime for Kinks!”

I heard the telltale scrambling of a cat who’s heard the word “snax” and is on his way to the kitchen for a treat. Sure enough, Kink was rubbing around my ankles in no time awaiting his treat.

“Tofu! Tofu!” I shouted and danced around the kitchen doing an improvised tofu dance. Kink got caught up in the moment and gamboled around the kitchen with me in anticipation. We did the tofu dance and Kink realized he was in for something special.

I went to the counter, opened up the tofu package, drained the water and cut off a few pieces into Kink’s bowl.

Kink was turning little circles on the floor urging me to hurry up.

I put the bowl down and Kink dived into it immediately and with great gusto.

And, just as immediately and with even greater gusto leap back and hissed!

Sssssssssssssssss! Kink was at full alert. Tail fluffed. Claws out. Eyes big.

Quickly, though, he calmed down and approached the bowl sniffing wildly. When he was an inch from his bowl he backed up, wrinkled his nose and tried to bury the bowl. His eyes were closed and he was trying frantically to bury his bowl into the tile floor.

Not a good sign.

After a few minutes of scratching at the bowl and floor he sauntered off into the living room, crawled into my chair in a direct act of defiance, curled up on my TV remote, and went to sleep.

I cleaned out the tofu in the sink and dried his bowl.

Later that evening I announced dinner.

“Dinner’s ready!”

“What are we having?”

“Chicken pad thai.”

“Oh, that sounds good. What’s in it?”

“Chicken, bean sprouts, rice stick noodles and spices.”

“That’s all? Sounds good. Simple, nutritious. You could use tofu instead of chicken, you know.”

I counted to ten. Twice. “Yeah, I read something about that at the Food site. Maybe next time.”

Or maybe not.


Artemis Irascible said...

You really should try tofu; it's delicious in curry!

Anonymous said...

When I was young, my mom was keen on the healthy eating plan. The only dessert to be found in our house was tofu pudding. Yes, you read that right. Tofu pudding. The banana slices on top really didn't help much.

I gained an elementary school reputation for myself, thanks to the tofu pudding - as the girl most likely to steal your Hostess cupcakes.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to side with Mrs. Chang and Kink. Tofu is one of those foods whose very texture offends me.