How important is tofu? Tofu saved my life, you know.
To you it’s just a food product, a meat substitute for the vegetarian masses. But that wobbly white stuff with no taste of its own – I’m going to be eating it until the world runs out of soy beans, because I’m so grateful.
See, my uncle Ray was a black sheep. He used to sneak off to Kevin Ng’s fruit shop every Monday and Thursday night to play mah jong in the back room. But we all thought he was at the polytechnic learning how to use MYOB. We didn’t know about his gambling habit until those Triad men knocked on our door late one night.
When nasty-looking Chinese men appear at your front door at 11pm, it usually only means one thing – someone’s lost big at mah jong and they’ve come to collect. There’s a reason why Chinese restaurants seem to change ownership so frequently, you know, and the owners always just happen to be big-time mah jong players. Funny that.
After we lost the Golden Lotus restaurant, I had to leave university and get a job. Mum started working nights at the Chopsticks Takeaways, to supplement the earnings from her fledgling tofu business. Joe, my brother, started sending money from London. It wasn’t enough though, because we still had to pay off a hefty mortgage on a restaurant we no longer owned. Every night, mum lit up the joss sticks and asked for some good luck from our ancestors. And every Sunday, she went to church and prayed for a miracle.
Traditionalist that she is, mum soon came up with the brilliant idea of marrying me off to a rich businessman from Hong Kong. She’d never even met the guy; just had a recommendation from Mrs Tse, who played marriage broker when she wasn’t running Chopsticks. It was all set up, you know. I wasn’t particularly eager to get hitched to a stranger (and a foreigner, at that), but I’ve never been much of a rebel, and anyway I couldn’t see any other way out of our financial hell.
But then mum’s tofu business took off. All of a sudden, the foodies who came to buy at the farmer’s market couldn’t get enough of it. Business was so good we had to rent extra work space from Mrs Tse (who also had a finger in the commercial real estate pie). Six months later, mum was bought out by Chan’s Authentic Chinese. We paid off the mortgage and still had a decent sum to invest in the stock exchange (soy bean futures). And I’m still single.
So yeah, I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. Funny thing is, Mum won’t take any of the credit for our good fortune. She just continues placing food offerings in front of the lit joss sticks every night, and singing loudly at church every Sunday.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
The importance of tofu
Here's my latest fiction-writing effort. Leo suggested I give you 300 words on the importance of cheese, but I think enough's been written about cheese already...