I haven’t had tofu in 3 weeks. No tofu scram; no tofu teriyaki; no sandwiches filled with fried, nutritional-yeast-coated tofu slabs. My local grocery stores have plenty of toilet paper, but there’s not a tub of tofu in sight.
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Aside from people dying, and the possible long-term effects of social isolation on our children, I would say lack of tofu is my #3 problem. Okay, that’s not true; my list of worries is epic right now. But at a time when there’s so little we can control, my little vegan family wants the comforts of tofu: its chewy texture, its reliable nourishment, and above all just the normality it represents to us.
Every morning, I witness my husband’s stress level climb one more notch as he opens the fridge to the sleepy realization that, no, he still can’t cook his usual scramble breakfast. And every day my 5-year-old daughter asks when we’re going to get more, and I have to tell her again that there’s no way of knowing. In some ways, it’s a small thing. But it’s also a daily reminder of how fast the world is changing and how little control we have over anything.
Like so many people around the world, we’re under a Stay at Home order. Even before the statewide lockdown began, my daughter and I were sick, so we self-quarantined. As a result, my family’s only gotten groceries three times this month, and each time, the tofu shelves have been completely cleaned out.
I live in a small farming town two hours from Seattle. I don’t know any other vegans in my town, so I doubt vegans are the ones hoarding the tofu here. Besides the missing tofu, the plant-based refrigerated protein shelf is well-stocked, like the one in the “EVERYBODY PANICKED…EXCEPT THE VEGANS” meme. All the fake meat is still there, just not the tofu: no firm, no extra-firm, not even silken.
Luckily, I was prepared for this. I may not have tofu, but my kitchen is otherwise stocked, because as a vegan, I’m used to fending for myself. I learned long ago, unless I provided my own food, I’d often go hungry. So now I’ve always got a LUNA Bar in my purse and 20 pounds of red lentils in my kitchen. Marla Rose feels me; she writes for Tenderly:
Vegans of a certain, um, vintage, have an anxiety borne through experience that at any time, there will not be food available. Hunger pangs at weddings, dry granola bars on road trips, plates of plain baked potatoes at the office’s annual meal at a steakhouse: They’ve all left us a little nervous about going hungry and left scars on our fragile psyches. The upshot is that many of us maintain pretty well-stocked pantries (and purses, and glove boxes…) just out of habit. We’re not hoarders, mind you, but we are prepared.
And thank goodness, because my grocery store is 100 percent out of dried beans as well. Seriously, now y’all are willing to eat beans?
Also missing from my grocery store shelves: wheat flour. All of it. My house was already stocked with five pounds each of both white and whole wheat pastry flours, because if a vegan wants pizza, cookies, cake, or cinnamon rolls, we’re probably going to need to bake it ourselves. As a result, most vegans are well-practiced bakers.
The rest of you? I can’t help but wonder if the reason my store’s out of nooch is half the flour-hoarders thought nutritional yeast must be that bread-baking “yeast” everybody’s been talking about. Nope. But you’ll love it on popcorn.
At a time when there’s so little we can control, my little vegan family wants the comforts of tofu: its chewy texture, its reliable nourishment, and above all just the normality it represents to us.
A week into my tofu-less existence, I texted my vegan friend in Seattle to complain. She said her grocery was out of all refrigerated tofu too, so she settled for some shelf-stable Mori-Nu silken tofu (which, by the way, is completely sold out on its website). “Better than nothing!” she said. I really miss tofu, but I don’t know if I’m desperate enough yet for Mori-Nu. Like, maybe if I want to bake a pumpkin pie?
Tofu or not, my family’s going to be fine. Because of our constant preparedness and the wonder of food stamps, we already had ten kinds of dried beans, seven kinds of flour, and six kinds of nuts stocked in our kitchen before any of this coronavirus panic started. And now we’ve got plenty of produce too, because I keep accidentally feeling the fruit and then realizing we’re in a time of, “You touch it, you buy it.”
Look, if the coronavirus pandemic is somehow getting omnivores to branch out and eat more plant-based proteins, I’m here for it. Seriously, eat that tofu. Eat those beans. I’ll be more than fine over here with my Soy Curls and Gardein Fishless Filets. I’d give up tofu forever if it meant just one more person would go vegan. But… it probably doesn’t mean that.
So seriously, if you’re hoarding the tofu, chill out. Get a couple tubs. Then save some for me.