Tuesday, March 09, 2004

House of Tofu

Living in a house is nice -- you can make frozen tofu easily. I woke up, trotted to the kitchen, opened the door, and viola, the bowl of tofu I set out last night has already frozen to a ready-to-be cooked state. I didn't use boxed tofu, instead, I picked up some loose brine-soaked tofu which are sold by weight at Asian grocers (why am I using this US Census-invented term? Describing myself as Asian is the first step of assimilation I fear). They don't have preservatives and are cheaper. If you're somewhere warmer, pop them in the freezer and you'll have the same result. But something in the frost makes them much firmer and tastier.

I made a big pot of tofu, bamboo shoots (from dented cans -- botulism-alert), and soybean sprouts stew. Not bad, I can eat off of this effort for a few days. Much as I love Korean kimchi-flavored instant noodles, eating so much chili is making me antsy.

Digging into my lunch at Dr. Zhou's clinic, I saw from the corner of my eye this over-accessorized woman in her 40s. Her hair is highlighted into four shades of blonde, so from the back, you'd think she was white. How misleading for men... She saw me at the front desk and sashayed over, then demanded in a half-English, half-Chinese mumble, "Is she ready to see me?"

Dr. Zhou rushed out from the inner offices of the clinic, where a patient has just started her treatment, and motioned for me to pour this caricature some American ginseng tea. I learned her name -- Kitty, there might also be a Mrs. attached. The spelling must mean she's Hong Kongnese. Women like that never lack for pocket money. Her days are spent dim-summing and shopping at European boutiques. If she produced any offspring, often named Spencer, Winston, or Clarissa, they are shuffled off to Swiss boarding schools so they can come back to Hong Kong and look down on their fellow Chinese.

I learned through their conversation that she's here to improve her circulation so that she can play polo again. Is that what the little embroidered guy on the overpriced, often imitated shirts is captured doing? (Note to self, add more pepper to this stew.) Now I feel bloated and resentfully envious of a woman who spends $200-plus a month on her hair. My expression might have made me look like I was deep in thought, but I was really pondering how much seasoning to add without making the whole thing too sodium-heavy.

When Kitty glanced over at my aluminum canteen and saw my lunch, she squealed, "You can cook?!" I gave a non-chalant shrug and didn't reply -- I didn't think her vocabulary included more than "Is it this season?" and "Make her stop crying, (nanny's name)." Dr. Zhou has decided that I need more torturing than seeing many strangers semi-nude when they disrobe for treatment, however, and volunteered my expertise in "food-based natural healing." She mouthed something to me that I didn't quite catch. I was too amused to say anything, if trying different supplements when they come out and trying diets makes me a health expert, then I'll gladly take on this role.

After ms. caricature left me her card and glided out the door, Dr. Zhou explained that she needed someone to make her soy-based dishes since she's peri-menopausal and in denial. I could stop by her house and make her some tofu rolls or deep-fried tofu curds sometime? I guess I could, gas guaranteed.


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