I was talking to a friend of mine from Japan a couple days ago.
Somehow we ended up talking about American food you can find in Japanese supermarkets vs. Japanese food you can find in American supermarkets.
Since we’d both lived in both places, it was a compare contrast kind of thing.
Then we started talking about tofu.
I asked him how it was made, and he gave me the standard answer.
Tofu is made from soybean curd.
Yeah, Not A Lot of Help
Since I don’t really know what that means, I asked if he could give me a step by step recipe.
To make it even more difficult, I asked him to explain it so I could make it without any chemicals, since they’ve been making tofu for thousands of years.
He said he’d get back to me.
Since this guy is an engineer, I was expecting a detailed and thorough answer.
I used to live nearby a large Vietnamese community. And they had this shop that made only tofu.
You’d go in there on the weekend and the place was packed with people buying freshly made tofu.
Vietnamese tofu, at least from this particular shop is much heavier and denser than Japanese tofu.
Japanese tofu is almost like Jello. This stuff was more like meat.
You could slice and fry it. Cut it and make sandwiches.
A very versatile meat substitute.
It turns out that less than ten percent of the corn grown in the United States is for food. Forty some odd percent is for animal feed.
And forty some odd percent is to make ethanol.
But making ethanol from corn is insanely inefficient. You have put in a gallon of oil into the system and you only get out slightly more than a gallon of ethanol.
From a purely energy return on investment, it’s really inefficient. Like 1.03 to 1.0 or something.
Whereas if you used sugar beets or sugar cane instead of corn, you’d get an efficiency of 8 to one, instead of just barely over one to one.
The transition from hunters and gathers to farmers is something that took a long, long time to happen.
It wasn’t like a bunch of hunters found some seeds one day and decided to be farmers.
If you’ve ever planted a garden, you know it’s not always guaranteed you’ll get something good.
Everybody Needs Tons of Land
Even with modern technology, each person needs about an acres worth of farmland to produce enough food to survive, per year.
So the idea of a hundred or so hunters suddenly figuring how to work a hundred acres doesn’t make much sense.
Even if they farmed perfectly the first time, what did they eat while that very first crop was growing?
Long Slow Change
What most historians believe happened is that for a long time, probably a thousand years or more, there were very few people, and a huge amount of naturally growing grains and cereals.
This likely happened after the end of the last ice age around what is called the fertile crescent.
Which is near the land bridge between the Afro-Eurasian continent.
Essentially, there were very few people and millions of acres of naturally growing grains and cereals.
Life of Riley
This meant they didn’t have to hunt, they didn’t even have to farm. They didn’t have to even forage.
They just went and picked what was naturally growing.
This is why they invented bread making before they invented farming.
And they likely figured out how to make alcohol before they needed to invent farming.
Bread and Beer
Which from a work-safety-leisure standpoint, this would have been the best time to be alive as human.
No dangerous hunting. No need to work in the fields.
Just bake bread and get hammered all day long.
But eventually, there were too many people for the naturally growing grains to support.
So over maybe a thousand years or so, they slowly learned how to deliberately grow their own food.
They basically took what was happening naturally, and figured out a way to copy it.
To change things to better fit their needs.
Each generation only needed to make a tiny change, and pass it on to the next generation.
This is essentially how all human discoveries and inventions are created. To find what is already working, and figure out a way to make it work better.
Recipe For Improvement
To spend most of your time thinking about how to do things better.
To think about how to do things differently.
To think about how to do things more efficiently.
Back during the Great Depression, the government was terrified of a massive debt default.
Owe Owe Owe
For example, if you were a farmer, you probably had a lot of debt. So long as you could sell whatever you grew, you could slowly pay down your debt.
But during the depressing, prices started falling.
The fear was the farmers wouldn’t be able to sell their crops for enough money to pay their debt, and just give up.
This would cause more debt defaults to ripple through the system, since everything was pretty interdependent.
Super Genius Plan
But what the government did next was pretty idiotic.
They figured they would force the price of certain crops to not fall very much.
The only way they could do this was to buy it themselves, once the price went down, so the price could stay up, and the farmers knew they could sell their stuff and pay their debts.
That way, farmers wouldn’t give up.
Plan To Keep Afloat
They could sell their crops to the government, pay their debts, and not go bankrupt.
But they did this only for certain crops, like corn.
Which made everybody start to grow corn, since the government promised they would pay for all of it.
This led to the corn industry becoming extremely huge and powerful today, so much that the corn lobby can get whatever they want.
Reason For Insanity
This is why they make ethanol from corn and not beets or sugar cane.
It’s also why we have high fructose corn sugar in nearly all our food, giving us all cancer.
Once I made some tofu french fries.
I cut the block of Vietnamese tofu into thin strips and then cut them so they looked like french fries.
Then I deep fried them and ate them catchup and mayonnaise.
It didn’t quite taste the same, but I can see how you could make it.
That’s why plenty of meat substitutes can be made with tofu, and taste pretty similar.
To make tofu, you need to take soybeans and soak them in water.
Multi Day Process
Then you take out the soybeans and you’ll have soy milk.
Then you need to add a coagulant to the soy milk to get soy curd.
Then you squish all the soy curd and get a block of tofu.
Now, when they make tofu on a large scale they use chemicals as the coagulant.
But if you wanted to make it like they did in the old days, all you need is lemon juice.
Now my question is who the heck decided, a thousand years or so ago, to experiment with soybeans until they figured out how to make tofu?
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