Having a baby does not do wonders for the brain. Between the sleep deprivation (which is, thankfully, largely a thing of the past for me now) and having your attention pulled in every direction, a new mother’s memory is like a sieve. Or swiss cheese, to use a metaphor more appropriate to this blog. There is evidence that it’s a hormonally-induced amnesia and there have also been arguments made that it’s an evolutionary adaptation that allows parents to focus on their children’s survival, letting the less important stuff fall to the wayside. I’m even heard it said that the memory loss common to new mothers is adaptive in that it makes them forget the pain of childbirth, increasing the likelihood that they’ll be willing to go through it all again. That one always seemed a bit far-fetched to the biological anthropologist in me.
Adaptive or not, the memory loss and intellectual slugishness are very real and being hyper-organized can only take you so far in combating it, or so I’ve learned. There remain those little tell-tale signs that part of your mind is always somewhere else. Like trying to take a drink of a bottle of water without taking the cap off first (did that yesterday). Or losing your keys- yeah, I know everyone does that but I swear I never did until I had a baby. Or perhaps less commonly, trying to caramelize tofu using bulgur. WHA???
We keep all of our grains and various bulk goods in see-through bags in a large bin and yes, my addled mind mistook bulgur for a nice coarse-grained brown sugar. It was only after about 10 minutes of sauting, with no hint of the “sugar” melting and caramelizing that I caught on to the fact that something might be wrong. Looking wretchedly at the skillet upon what looked like a pile of tofu absolutely caked and coated with sugar, bemoaning what seemed to be shaping up as a particularly unfortunate meal, I finally tasted a chunk of the tofu. Surprisingly unsweet, yet with a distinctive crunchy chew. A quick look in the gain bin confirmed that I had, in fact, substituted bulgur for sugar.
Some cooks might abandon the meal right there, but I decided to persevere as though the tofu were not entirely coated in bulgur and I can safely say that the dish dramatically improved once the sugar was added and it caramelized. In fact, it was pretty tasty and a nice change from the strictly savory dinners that we usually have. Let me suggest, however, that adding bulgur will not improve the dish, so one might consider leaving it out and sticking to the original recipe. Just a thought.
[As if to prove my own point, it ‘s taken me over a week to sit down and concentrate for long enough to write this post. When I tried to return to finish it just now after several days away from blogging, though I remembered that I was writing about maternal forgetfulness, I couldn’t for the life of me recall which draft I had actually been working on…sigh.]
Caramelized tofu with brussels sprouts (serves 4)
1 block of extra-firm tofu (about 16 oz), cut into thin 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive or peanut oil
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
3 tablespoons fine-grain natural cane sugar or brown sugar
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, washed, ends trimmed off, and cut into 1/8-inch wide ribbons
Salt to taste
cooked rice for serving
1. Put a large skillet over medium heat and add oil. Add the tofu with a pinch of salt and cook until lightly browned, then add the garlic and pecans and cook until the garlic is soft and fragrant, about one minute.
2. Lower the heat and stir in the sugar, stirring often to avoid burning. Remove from heat and add the cilantro, then transfer to a warm plate.
3. Add the Brussels sprouts to the pan and stir and scrape to combine with any pan residue. Season with salt and cook, stirring only occasionally to promote browning, until there are golden bits and the sprouts turn a brighter hue.
4. Put rice on plates, transfer brussels sprouts mixture, and top with the tofu.