This weekend I went to the annual Tofu Festival in Little Tokyo with an old college friend. I’d heard so much about it that I just couldn’t miss it. And once I found out another friend of mine was in the promotional tofu-eating contest that aired on the evening news, I just had to go. When we got there, they stamped our hands with the word tofu! (too bad it doesn’t show up well in the photo or I would’ve posted it here. Tofu Festival is also on myspace.)
Armed with sunscreen, sunglasses and food tickets, we strolled among the booths, trying all kinds of different dishes. Mis amigas liked the tofu tostadas the best—but I just thought it was pico de gallo with chopped tofu mixed in. It was good, but I wasn’t as impressed as they were. It’s amazing how much better fresh tofu is than that packaged kind. I stuffed myself with fried tofu, dipped in peanut sauce with sriracha. Yum! I could have gone for some tofutti too, but the booths started closing before I could think of it. Luckily I got to the blacklava booth before they shut down for the weekend and I bought this fabulous t-shirt.
When I saw it on the wall, I couldn’t resist! Asiaphiles irk me so! And Blacklava is awesome. I think my next purchase will be the brown sweatshirt with JUSTICE on it. But I’ll have to wait for my fellowship check to come in.
That evening I spoke with my mom on the phone. She said she can’t help but feel a little envious that I live in a place where all these foods are so accessible. “You should enjoy it while you can.” She said. “When you leave, you’ll miss it more than if you never had it.” Huh, I hadn’t been thinking about the fact that I probably won’t live in LA forever. I love how my mom likes to state the obvious things that you don’t want to think about in the moment.
But she is right, there aren’t any tofu festivals in small-midwestern-college-town or any of those other midwestern/appalachian places where I’ve lived. When I lived in NYC, my supervisor, who’s also Chinese Am, had been in California visiting family and returned to our office with tales of the amazing selection at Ranch 99 market. It became legendary amongst the APIAs in our office, since none of us had ever experienced this kind of Asian superstore. We wanted to see this “isle of nothing but ramen” for ourselves.
But when I first moved to LA, I had trouble getting acclimated to the suburban Chinatown thing, of which markets like Ranch 99 are exemplary. I knew how to shop in Chinatown NY, but this whole strip-mall-grocery-store thing, where you have to drive, park and go inside was a different story. If you decide they don’t quite have what you want, you can’t just walk to the next store and see what they have. You have to get in the car and brave the traffic again. What a drag! And you can’t buy less than like 5 pounds of baby bokchoy or 10 bulbs of garlic or a giant sack of ginger root at once. Not good for the single person. It all took some getting used to. And to be honest, I’m not sure I’m used to it yet.