Salt and pepper tofu

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It’s hard to write this blog at the moment because there’s not much “me and Bert” food. I’m not eating meat. Bert’s not eating sauce, spice* (* flavour), wet food of any kind, most cooked vegetables and most dishes that combine different textures and flavours. And Bert’s dad is eating meat, flavour and sauce. So meals either centre on a dish that can be deconstructed for Bert and have meat added or removed, or a single thing we all eat (tonight: egg fried rice) with optional extras (tonight: slow-cooked pork belly, ginger and garlic stir-fried greens, a face made out of orange pepper and cucumber, and salt and pepper tofu).

Maybe this is the way a lot of families cook and eat, but it’s a right faff. My vision of motherhood was cooking up a single, hearty stew then lying back on the sofa and reading a book.

But it wasn’t having motherhood forced upon me before I was ready for it, able to be competent at it or desperately wanted it. Nor was it being enslaved by my fertility and having to chose between celibacy or endless babies. I did desperately want Bert, to the extent I remember standing on a beach in winter and praying to the infinitely blossoming and diminishing waves – because you never know.

But there were other times in my life when I desperately didn’t want to be a mother, and I’m pretty sure the immature, insecure 19-year-old me, who as yet had no idea how to take it into my own hands to make a relationship as good as it could be or leave it, who hadn’t yet acquired the simple life skill of figuring out what I wanted then trying to make it happen, was right in that conviction.

It would be wonderful if everyone who wanted to be a mother was a mother. If every childless couple felt child free. If every woman who, on reflection, wouldn’t really enjoy being a mother that much, didn’t feel the pressure to be one. But in the meantime we should all do everything we can to make sure every baby is a wanted baby.

I hope I’m not jumping the gun in saying well done, Ireland. For the first time in a few years the public vote seems to be going the way of sanity and proper, nuanced empathy.

I can be deeply thankful for my sauce-avoider, live with regret that we didn’t manage to have more, and still be glad that I was definitely free not to have children before I was ready. We are complex beings living in a complex world and we can have a lot of different things on the table at the same time.

So here’s to being able to make choices, even if setting up life to allow for that isn’t always easy.

Serves 1

1/2 pack tofu

1 egg

2 tablespoons cornflour

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

A lot – a lot – of salt and pepper (treat it as an ingredient not as seasoning)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Cut the tofu into bite sized chunks. It’s very fragile. Don’t worry too much. Get the oil hot in a large frying pan. Beat the egg in one shallow bowl and combine the flour, sesame seeds, salt and pepper in another. (It needs to be cornflour – don’t be tempted to substitute.)

Dip the pieces of tofu in the egg then the flour mix and chuck them quickly into the pan before they fall apart. Keep the pan hot and cook quickly – a couple of minutes on each side till they’re crisp and golden. The savoury crunch of the outside gives way to a silky soft interior.

No one else will eat it – shame.

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