Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tofu Turkeys, Genetically Altered Foods, and the Evil Eye

An American holiday, Thanksgiving, is coming up. I look forward to Thanksgiving as a time when the extended family comes together to talk, have fun, and eat a festive meal together.

I've also long since come to terms with the fact that I'm a human being - and that human beings are opportunistic omnivores. Although it's possible for us to stay relatively healthy on a diet devoid of animal protein, I think there's no reasonable point in the exercise.

Unless a person has health issues: A relative of mine is a strict vegetarian, because of a heart condition. Doctor's orders.

I don't mind the silly side of Thanksgiving. It's given me an excuse to make a few motivational posters.

Like this one, inspired by memories of my earnest, sensitive fellow-students back in the 'good old days:'

Researching a post for another blog, I ran across a recipe for ersatz turkey. The base material is tofu. I'm no huge fan of eating curdled soy milk, but the recipe I found sounded pretty good.

First, from that post, "Tofu Turkey: No Kidding," Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette (November 13, 2009):

"You may remember Howard Leland, proponent of the 'natural yard,' member of the Asclepias Society member, and defender of zombie ants.

"He's decided that he won't contribute to the annual slaughter of turkeys this year. He told me that he's going to feast on a concoction of tofu, sage, rosemary and thyme. No parsley, though. The recipe also calls for vinegar (balsamic, not that ordinary kind), red wine, Dijon mustard, soy sauce, and a few other ingredients.

"Turns out, 'balsamic vinegar' isn't vinegar at all. It's not made from wine, but from grape pressings that get boiled down and aged. The source I used said that it got popular in America after chefs at upscale restaurants started using it. No wonder balsamic vinegar was new to me...."

Now, that tofu turkey recipe:

"Homemade Tofu Turkey with Stuffing" Vegetarian Food

"This Thanksgiving, try making your own homemade tofu turkey, complete with vegetarian stuffing inside. There's a few different steps involved, though the process is very simple. A homemade tofu turkey will be the pride and joy of your vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving celebration!..."

The recipe doesn't look too hard to follow - although I'd have a time finding the "vegetarian stuffing" they refer to. And, providing you weren't expecting it to taste like turkey, the results could be fun to eat.

If you'd rather eat prefab tofu turkey, there's an outfit that sells a product they call Tofurky®:

As I pointed out in that Loonfoot Falls post, Tofurky® is for people with refined tastes. It's: "Made, naturally, in a very vegan way with no 'genetically engineered foods.' That must take some doing, since soybeans have been a domesticated plant for about 31 centuries now...."

Domesticated Crops and the Evil Eye

It wasn't too long ago that people were worried about the evil eye. Some still do.

But a more up-to-date fashion is the fear of "genetically engineered" foods. They're not "natural," you know.

Which is true. There's nothing particularly natural about most of the foods we eat.

"...My guess is that most people don't think of domesticated plants and animals as 'artificial.' Wheat, domestic chickens, and big, juicy apples have been around for so long that it's easy to assume that they've 'always been there.'

"Besides, 'technology' is something new and cool, right? Not the sort of thing that those serfs and peasants do. Or, these days, those farmers...."
("Hard Science Fiction, Cultural Blinders and Laban's Sheep," Drifting at the Edge of Time and Space (October 29, 2009))

Maize - the stuff that Americans call "corn" - is an artificial life form, developed thousands of years ago in North America. Corn-on-the-cob is grown by plants whose genes were altered by selective breeding.

The method isn't the same as what's done at places like North Dakota State University, but the results are just as artificial: "natural" plants wouldn't have those oversized cobs with huge kernels. Maize looks - and tastes - the way it does, because people wanted it that way.

I think it's a good idea to be careful about what you eat: and this household does quite a bit of cooking 'from scratch,' using foods that haven't been processed all that much since they got separated from the (domesticated) plant or animal that grew them.

Of course, "genetically engineered," as used in the contemporary fashion seems to mean "developed during the last few decades, using techniques that weren't around in my grandparents' time."

Ambivalence toward the new and different is - not new. When I was growing up, I ran into a joke about a little old lady on an airplane. She was clearly not enjoying the flight. She explained her point of view: "People shouldn't fly around. They should be where God intended them to be: safe at home, watching television!"

A century or two from now, my guess is that a fear of "genetically engineered foods" will be like fear of the "evil eye" is now: a quaint cultural quirk, sincerely held by a few; studied by some; and forgotten by many.

Related posts: Background:

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