by Sigrid Bjarnason
Originally published in The Flying Shingle, Monday, February 24, 2014
I have a memory (from sometime in the early ‘70s, judging by the bad hairdos) of standing with a circle of people talking while we waited – for a plane? No. A train? Maybe. Anyhow, there was this huge beefy guy wearing a big brown hat talking about his enormous soybean farm somewhere in the U. S. of A.
I was about to share my favourite soybean recipe with the group when – in the nick of time – I realised something. This farmer was not growing soy destined for hippie-burgers. He was growing soy as feed for hogs destined for slaughter. I no doubt narrowly avoided an awkward moment. He would have been horrified to think that I actually ate the stuff myself.
Soy continues to be grown in huge quantities today, primarily to feed animals who are then fed to humans. I saw a film called Meat the Truth at the Vancouver Public Library a few days ago. It cites research showing that it takes seven kilos of soybean feed to produce just one kilo of meat. Not a very efficient way for humans to obtain nutrition.
Meat the Truth also examines the alarming quantity of greenhouse gases and pollution that result from the intensive farming of animals. The inescapable conclusion? If you eat lots of meat, you can’t call yourself an environmentalist no matter how much you walk or bike.
On the plant front, non-GMO, traditionally-prepared soy is a healthy option for humans. Tofu, tempeh, natto, edamame, and miso are all wonderful sources of nutrition. They contain protein as well as many micronutrients. Soybeans – some fermented, some not – have been a staple food in Asian countries for centuries. Some of the healthiest, longest-lived people come from places in the world where modest portions of soy are eaten once or twice a day, every day.
Want to eat healthy soy yourself rather than filter GMO soy through pigs, cows, and chickens? Here’s an easy, delicious, nutritious recipe for baked tofu from Isa Does It, the new cookbook from Isa Chandra Moskowitz:
Classic Baked Tofu
1 (14-ounce) block extra-firm tofu, sliced into 8 slabs
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons garlic powder
In a bowl big enough to accommodate the tofu, mix together all the marinade ingredients. Add the tofu and marinate for an hour (or overnight) flipping at least once.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the tofu in a single layer on the baking sheet, cover with tin foil, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove tin foil, flip the tofu, and spoon on more marinade. Then bake uncovered for another 12 to 15 minutes. The tofu should be browned at the edges.
This is a tofu dish you can serve hot for dinner or keep in the fridge for sandwiches or salads. For that matter, add it to any savoury dish that you think would benefit from a healthy and delicious low-fat alternative.
I like to think that the hefty cat in the big brown hat with the soybean farm would quite enjoy a sumptious slab slathered in barbecue sauce, nestled next to a mess o’ butter beans and a slo-baked spud.