I admit it:I take Tofutti for granted. For thirty years I’ve been eating Tofutti products – frozen desserts, cream cheeses, frozen pizzas, etc. And unlike some other allergy free brands whose products I love – for example, Enjoy Life – it is not hard to find Tofutti products. Even my Luddite local supermarket carries Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream. And even CVS Pharmacies (well, some of them) carry the truly awesome “Yours Truly” Tofutti ice cream cones. So as I continue to enjoy the products, and am thrilled every time I pull, for example, a tub of cream cheese from my fridge to smear some on a roll, it has all become a bit ho-hum at this point.
Fortunately, my passion for Tofutti has recently been revived. You see, I get to write about Tofutti for a totally mainstream publication. My friend Andy Smith is editor of a New York food encyclopedia called Savoring Gotham that is going to be published by – yes, this is no gag – Oxford University Press. And since Tofutti was started by Chef Dave Mintz in New York City, among the 6 entries I have been assigned to write about is – again, no gag – Tofutti.
Of course, for that entry, I have to stick to just the facts, ma’am. You know, where and when and why Tofutti was invented (not to say that that is not a cool story, because it is). But I can’t wax poetic (as I am free to do here) on how Tofutti changed my life (ok, maybe that is a bit of a stretch). And while the average smart-ass foodie would be bound to infuse a blurb about Tofutti with some sarcasm, intuiting to the reader that no self-respecting foodie would touch this white bland goo with a ten-foot pole, I am not going to be doing any of that either, neither there nor here. Instead, I am sure that my entry will pulse with the respect and admiration I have for the man who came up with it, whatever his reasons, and the versatility and usefulness of the product.
Now you may be saying “whatever do you mean by ‘whatever his reasons?'” Well, I will save the full story for my Savoring Gotham entry, but an interesting fact for us dairy allergic folks is that Mintz’s motivation was not to create a dairy free product for health reasons. Instead, he wanted to make a kosher dessert that could be eaten with a meal that included meat. Therefore, it had to be something devoid of dairy. The fact that what he created can also be enjoyed by those of us who eschew dairy for health reasons, not religious ones, was sort of a happy accident.
But as I said, I don’t care why he did it. I care that we have this great product, and can enjoy it in so many areas of our culinary lives. The original product, the frozen dessert, continues to be a favorite of mine. For pints, I prefer Vanilla Fudge, and I have also been known to pleasure my way through a box of the sandwich desserts called Cuties now and then (love the Key Lime ones). And as I have told you before, the new ice cream cones called Yours Truly rival any chocolate-covered cone I ever had (even the Good Humor bars I ate as a kid).
For non-frozen applications, the cream cheese and the sour cream are probably what I use most of all. The former is great as a base for icing for, say, red velvet or spice cupcakes. When I have soup or goulash, I will often put a dollop of the sour cream in my bowl to make the soup just a little richer and creamier.
I have eaten the Tofutti frozen pizza a couple of times, but honestly, if I want frozen pizza, I usually opt for Amy’s Vegan Margherita. Tofutti has a frozen ravioli which I don’t believe I’ve ever had (I wasn’t aware that it still existed until I saw it on the website just now). There was a time when Tofutti’s cheese slices were the only ones available that were truly vegan, and I would eat them back then; however, I felt the taste was too strong to eat them on their own (used in a vegan cheeseburger, they could be quite nice).
I recently bought the Tofutti ricotta for the first time, but haven’t really had a chance to use it for anything yet (I put it in some recipe that called for ricotta cheese and I seem to remember it came out nice, but I have forgotten the details). I would love to make my own cannolis – I will have to look for a good recipe for making the cookie as well as the creamy filling (I know there is such a recipe on the Tofutti website, but have yet to check it out).
Now I know there are some folks who are dairy free who also like to limit their soy intake. Since Tofutti is all soy-based, that means (for them) laying off the soy. For me, there are definitely areas where I don’t like to use soy products – for example, when it comes to drinking, I prefer almond or coconut milks to soy (sorry, Silk!). And I am thankful that So Delicious has championed making so many great products with coconut milk base. With Tofutti, I don’t notice much of a soy tang or unpleasant aftertaste, or digestive bloating or anything like that (I know, tmi!). In other words, I think by using Tofutti for my soy products and brands like Daiya and So Delicious for dairy substitutes that have coconut and almond (and other products) as their base, it balances out nicely for me.
Once again, I celebrate Tofutti. For its 30 or so years, it has provided me with so much of the comfort and creaminess and plain joy of eating that I might have otherwise had to pass up due to my allergy. People who think that “tofu” equates with nasty and that anything made with tofu must be a poor substitute for the real thing need to get over it already. Tofutti has led the way and continues to lead the way in showing that those of us who live the dairy free lifestyle don’t have to settle for anything less. Thank you, Tofutti!