Ah Thanksgiving, the holiday of food. And yet, as I sit here on Thanksgiving Eve, I find my thoughts drawn, not to tomorrow's delicious feast, but to tofu sandwiches.
I'll come clean upfront: I don't like tofu sandwiches. But I'm pretty sure this is at least 60% due to my personal history with them. Remember those vaguely hippie indignities of my childhood? Yeah, this is one of them.
Picture it, if you will. A warm later summer day in Chico, CA. The year is 1982, and I am off to my first day of first grade. I presume my day went normally, well, even, until lunch time. Lunch time is when my memory of that day becomes crystal clear. I opened my lunch box only to find that it contained a tofu sandwich. Whole wheat bread, sliced tomatoes, mayonnaise, mustard, alfalfa sprouts, and sliced, raw, blindingly white tofu. Kids aren't dumb. In fact, they sometimes read and understand unspoken social norms better than adults. And everyone knows that the food you eat situates you socially. Kobe beef burgers? Spicy curries? Ramen noodles? Raw food? No animal products? Locally grown? What we eat sends out a clear social message about who we are and what is important to us. Unfortunately for my 6 year old self, children have very little control over the messages they send out, since they largely eat whatever their mothers give them. And some well meaning mothers, it turns out, give tofu sandwiches. Well, at least one mother!
I closed my lunch box. I did not eat my tofu sandwich. Can you blame me? Social ruin was staring into my first grade face, its rays no doubt reflected off the pearly white tofu. Disaster was averted. (I am reminded at this point of Will Smith's classic "Parents Just Don't Understand". As he bewails the horrific back to school clothes his mom has chosen for him she responds with the well meaning, but nonetheless completely wrong, classic parent line: "If they're laughing you don't need 'em/Cause they're not real friends". Um, maybe. I'd probably laugh if I saw one of my friends dressed in the get-up he describes. But that's beside the point, because the issue is: do I want to find out of if my friends are real or not by risking becoming a laughingstock? No, I didn't think so.)
However, I was not the sauve social mastermind I fancied myself, as it turns out. Instead of throwing the offending sandwich away I brought it home. And my mom made me eat it. When I protested and whined and dragged my feet about it she put a timer next to me and told me I had X amount of time in which to eat the offending item. If I'd known enough social theory to construct the tofu sandwich as my enemy I might have been able to take some small amount of pleasure in its demise at my hands, but as it was it mostly just sucked.
In the end I learned two valuable lessons. The first was that I should never bring home any food that was too hippie to eat at public school. The second was that tofu sandwiches are not very delicious.