Angry Tofu

Food is love, they say and I do believe. I aspire to family meals prepared and shared with love.

But sometimes family meals take a rougher road to the table. Sometimes the cooking is a hasty chop-heat-stir-and-serve, and sometimes it’s even worse, a pot-crashing, ingredient-flinging, plate-slamming scene.

So it was the other night. There was a question about homework, and my answer didn’t satisfy. I tried again, and my — clearly tired, hungry — child moved suddenly from confused to frustrated. He started to cry. I tried again to help and he raised his voice, wanting my help still but disagreeing with what I was offering. I walked away. He followed me into the room, whimpering, the sound grating on me, emphasizing my failure to help–with homework, with disappointment, with anything.

I tried to ignore him to cook, and I’m lucky I didn’t lose a finger, I was so reckless about it. I knew he wouldn’t like the dish — Food 52’s black bean orange peel edamame — and felt small that I was taking some pleasure in that. I wiped out the pan before cooking the tofu, but didn’t wash it thoroughly, and figured the garlicky-orange tang on the tofu would bother him, too. By then, I had calmed down enough to feel a little bad about that, but still not enough to go to any extra effort.

We sat down for dinner quietly and served some food. The half of the family witnessing the storm made an extra effort to praise the meal, and he took a cautious bite. “This tastes different, “ he said, and I braced myself for some complaint; “I like it.”

And I exhaled, and took a bite, and we moved on with the evening.